Harvesting Icebergs can Solve Drought in Third World Countries

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August 8, 2011 4:39 PM EST

A plan to solve drought in affected Third World countries by tugging massive icebergs from the polar ice caps could soon become a reality.

Georges Mougin first conceived of harvesting icebergs nearly forty years ago and has been championing the idea ever since. The then engineering graduate worked with French polar explorer Paul-Emile Victor and Saudi prince Muhammad al-Faisal to explore ways to harvest the billions of liters of fresh water in icebergs.

Experts told Mougin his plan was too expensive and too difficult and it remained nothing more than a theory. Mougin worked with other projects but held out hope for his iceberg theory. Now, with the help of computer simulations from French software firm Dassault Systemes, Mougin was able to test his theory and prove that it is possible to harness polar ice-caps.

The 86-year old French eco-entrepreneur's plan involve encircling the iceberg with a harness that has a skirt made of insulating textile. This material will unfold below the surface and will prevent the iceberg from melting. The computer simulations show that a single tugboat from Newfoundland could cart a seven million ton iceberg to the Canary Islands in less than five months and without the iceberg melting.

Initial simulations showed the tug floundering after it hit an eddy and resulted in too much melting and heavy fuel consumption. After changing the departure date from May to mid-June the tug was able to tow the iceberg in just 141 days with only 38 percent melting. The remaining iceberg still have plenty of fresh water for consumption and it only cost 6 million pounds.

Mougin's plan to harvest icebergs could alleviate the world's worsening drought problems. Currently more than two billion people around the world still do not have access to clean drinking water. Droughts have recently devastated the Horn of Africa, leaving 12 million people without water. Polar ice caps have nearly 70 percent of the Earth's fresh water inside. A 30 million ton iceberg could supple half a billion people with drinking water for a year.

With the success of the simulations Mougin hopes to raise 2 million to fund a trial run next year: towing a smaller iceberg from the Antarctic to Australia.

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