The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is planning to tow an iceberg from Antarctica to solve its drinking water problem. The UAE is among the top 10 water-scarce countries in the world, and yet has one of the highest water consumption rates per capita across the globe.
To meet the rising demand, the National Advisor Bureau Limited (NABL) — a company headquartered at Masdar city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi — is planning to tow an iceberg from Antarctica to Fujairah — an eastern Emirate — and mine it for drinking water.
A UAE-based news outlet has quoted NABL Managing Director Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi as saying that an average iceberg contains "more than 20 billion gallons of water" — or around 75 billion litres — which is "enough for one million people over five years." However, given the climate in and around the UAE, the big question is how much of that water will end up evaporating.
Now, icebergs are not easy melters. Around four-fifths of their mass is usually under water, where no evaporation can take place. On the other hand, what ice mass sticks out of the water is white and reflects light and, along with it, heat. Since less heat is absorbed, there are fewer chances of losing a great deal of the iceberg to evaporation.
Meanwhile, it seems that the UAE Iceberg Project, as Al Shehi calls it, is a go because "despite expected scepticism from naysayers," the company has run simulations that show it is on the route to success because their feasibility studies say so.
"Our simulator predicts that it will take up to one year [to tow an iceberg from Antarctical to Fujairah]. We have formulated the technical and financial plan. Towing is the best method. We will start the project in beginning of 2018. We want it mainly for the water. It could also be good for tourism and the weather," he said.
Al Shehi also said the ship that would tow the iceberg to the UAE would follow a predetermined path. Once it is on the UAE shore, the NABL's water processing system will take over, "chipping off blocks of the iceberg above the water line and then crushing the pure polar ice into drinking water which would be stored in large water tanks and then filtered through a water processing plant."
He also told the news outlet in a statement that the icebergs would cause more rain in the UAE. He said: "Cold air gushing out from an iceberg close to the shores of the Arabian Sea would cause a trough and rainstorms across the Arabian Gulf and the southern region of the Arabian Peninsula all year round. As the rising air expands, cools and condenses due to the decrease in air pressure. Water vapour is collected in the clouds, they become heavy and falls as rain."