A company in the UAE plans to tow an iceberg from the Antarctic to provide fresh water for UAE citizens. The head of the project also looks forward to its potential positive side effects, such as influencing the UAE’s climate and tourism. However, critics question whether such an endeavor can or even should be undertaken for logistical, legal and environmental reasons.
Obtaining Water from the Iceberg
As one of the world’s top 10 most arid countries, the UAE’s desert climate will create a serious water crisis over the next 25 years. While the country consumes more than double the national average in water each year, it receives less than four inches of rain annually—leaving the UAE in search of what some would consider desperate solutions.
Beginning in 2018, the National Advisor Bureau headquartered in Abu-Dhabi plans to retrieve huge ice blocks from Heard Island, 600 miles off the coast of Antarctica. The group will then tow the iceberg 5,500 miles to the Gulf Coast, to Fujairah, one of the seven emirates—or territories—which make up the UAE, taking approximately one year. If successful, the iceberg that contains billions of gallons of water could provide enough water to sustain one million people for five years.
The managing director of the National Advisor Bureau, Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi, told Gulf News the group has completed necessary simulations for the transportation route—including essential variables—to determine the feasibility of what’s known as the UAE Iceberg Project.
With respect to improving the weather, The National Advisor Bureau said the average iceberg contains upwards of 20 billion gallons of water. That giant ice block remains 80 percent underwater while it slowly melts. Meanwhile, white ice on the surface reflects the sun and deflects heat. Shehi envisions the melting iceberg’s presence could create a moist microclimate, hopefully prompting rainfall.
He wrote to Gulf News that when the icebergs float in the UAE’s hot climate, “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.” He added, “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.”