QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Where do you look for the icebergs?
Along the 60th parallel south in the Southern Ocean towards Antarctica. On the high seas, outside the protection zones.
How do you find icebergs?
Specific regions are scanned by satellite in the target area, on the 60th parallel. In this way, we receive information about the number, type, size and movement of icebergs in a fast and very environmentally friendly way. Before this was possible, you had to use a research vessel for a long journey to find a needle in a haystack. There are tons of icebergs, but the area is also very large. Therefore, it can take weeks to find the right iceberg. Today, we are able to do that in just a few hours.
How do you know it's the right one?
Scanning is done using various satellite analysis methods. Not only do we get precise data, we also get close-ups of the icebergs. In the further analysis process, we can determine very precisely whether an iceberg has large cracks, for example. In this case, we save the data, wait until the iceberg has broken and use it at another point in time, if necessary. Because every iceberg that has been scanned remains under our permanent observation. Over time, this creates an accurate iceberg map of the region. We also pass on relevant data for scientific research.
Does the iceberg belong to someone?
An iceberg “on the high seas”, outside of economic and nature protection zones, does not belong to anyone.
Has the technology been tried and tested?
Yes. We only use technologies that have been tried and tested over many years.
Is the iceberg still used as a habitat for animals?
No. The area in which we are looking for icebergs is thousands of kilometres away from any countries or Antarctica itself. This area is so far away from Antarctica, for example, that it basically doesn’t have much to do with the continent. This is always a bit misleading. Only the iceberg itself was originally from Antarctica a long time ago, and broke off there. It is no longer a traditional habitat for seals, for example. Icebergs that have been proven to be a habitat are also not an option for our purposes.
Are you infiltrating nature reserves for social purposes?
No. We always stay outside of any protection zones and we do not make any attempt, for whatever reason, to develop open spaces in this regard. We see no reason to do so either. In the case of a project such as POLEWATER, it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to raise these questions. We simply think that it would be immoral to open doors in that direction. There are already enough tourist cruises in the Antarctic region. We don’t have to agree to this, and we won’t agree to it either.
Why do you use ships with traditional drives?
There are currently no ships – or rather, no anchor-handling tug supply vessels – available with alternative drives. We are of course very interested in this issue, and we follow the market and developments closely. In this area, however, we rely on the most modern, most powerful and most efficient tugboats available on the market. Efficiency and safety are our top priorities. Safety in order to protect the people directly involved (e.g. the working crew), and efficiency in order not to pollute nature.
Was it all your idea?
The way we want to go about it was my idea, yes. For example, we are the first to use space technology to find and analyse icebergs. That is why we discussed these issues with Astrium (now Airbus) back in 2013. In the field of searching for icebergs, Airbus technology is now an integral part of the POLEWATER concept. When it comes to the question of whether we were the first to come up with the idea of extracting water from icebergs, then we have to say no. This idea is very old, and clever minds had already dealt with the complexity of this issue decades ago. However, they were way ahead of their time and were not able to fall back on the technical possibilities available to us today.
Why did you form POLEWATER?
To do something about water shortages affecting the world and to make a strong, sustainable contribution. We believe that in the field of water shortage, additional water is the only solution. Continuing to squeeze terrestrial sources further and further and drilling deeper and deeper will not help us to achieve a balance. We must also keep in mind that if a great new water source were to be found in one country, that country (for understandable reason) would not simply share its water with other countries. Icebergs, however, represent a new, free, conflict-free, and pure source of water. The idea conceived many decades ago was brilliant. If the implementation of such a project is also able to fit into today’s ecology-oriented world, it is a wonderful path to take. That’s why we are stepping up.
Do you observe environmental protections?
In every area that is necessary and possible. Environmental protection is a high priority for us, as it is for many people nowadays. We want to live, today and tomorrow. In a clean world. We have to do something in order for that to happen. This also applies above all to companies such as POLEWATER. We cannot and do not want to try to solve one problem to ultimately make another problem bigger in the process. Today, we are able to position ourselves in a climate-neutral manner through certificate trading. But that is too short-sighted, and does not work as a long-term solution. Our dream would be to use hydrogen-powered tugboats. But unfortunately these don’t exist yet. In the meantime, we will continue to buy certificates and do what we have to do. We get advice from NGOs. Who knows better what is acceptable than they do?!
Is the water only for Africa?
No. Water shortage is a global issue. That includes the African continent. To focus such a project on one region is, in our opinion, neither expedient nor forward-looking.
Are all icebergs suitable for POLEWATER?
No. We only use table icebergs. As the name suggests, these icebergs lie on the water like a table, and are much more stable than the icebergs which look like a typical mountain with a peak. With the latter, there is a risk of rotation, which makes the transport phase very dangerous.
Why are you starting your first project on the coast of Cape Town?
Different production sites are required to meet global requirements. Starting from the 60th parallel south, there are 3 regions that are suitable for such production locations – South America, South Africa and Australia. It is important to keep the transport route from the iceberg pick-up location to the production sites as short as possible. In addition, it is necessary to operate in regions which still have cool water temperatures, in order to achieve controlled melting. In Cape Town, we can also fall back on an ideal infrastructure for the start of the project, which would have to be planned if we started it elsewhere. That would put an additional burden on POLEWATER. In the medium to long term, the concept envisages opening additional production sites.
How can I support POLEWATER?
In due course, we will start a crowdfunding campaign to enable everyone who supports the POLEWATER project to participate in it, and to encourage active participation in this context.
Can I donate to POLEWATER?
No. We consciously pursue an economic concept within the framework of a social business. Therefore, we cannot accept donations. Nor do we simply want to receive money without giving something back in return. Therefore, we will offer the opportunity for people to fund us as part of a crowdfunding campaign.
How do you bring the water to the people?
This process will be take place step by step. In the first phase, we will provide the water via waterbags in ports or suitable coastal regions. Further transport will be organised together with the respective governments and aid organisations. In the long term, we want to organise the entire distribution process down to the water reaching the people. We do not want to evade this responsibility.
Who will benefit from the water?
Basically, everyone who needs it and everyone who wants it. There will be no restrictions on any specific groups. To ensure balance, we will introduce controls so that no group or region is disadvantaged. Equality and equal rights of user groups are a high priority for us. However, our multi-level concept takes into account the level of emergency and the group’s own capabilities. We will therefore concentrate on crisis areas in phase 1 (short term), on particularly sensitive regions in phase 2 (medium term,) and on all regions in need in phase 3 (long term).
Why don't you collect the water directly at the location in which you find the iceberg?
The region surrounding the 60th parallel south acts like a freezer for the water. These are great starting conditions for our project. If we were to obtain the water on site, it would be like trying (figuratively speaking) to thaw a packet of spinach in the middle of a freezer. The energy required for this would have to be very high in order to overcome the cold energy of the freezer and the block of frozen spinach. Permanently and continuously. Such a procedure would require enormous amounts of energy and lead to considerable CO2 emissions. This does not yet take into account that the required energy must first be brought to the location. We are stepping up to extract water from icebergs – not necessarily to make history as logisticians for icebergs. Today, this is our way. There may be other methods tomorrow. We will keep working on it.
How big is such an iceberg?
Our target output size corresponds approximately to a large football field – covering an area of up to 10,000 square metres. The iceberg protrudes 10-15 metres out of the water. 90% of the ice masses are underwater, so it is about 90 – 135 m deep. Its total height corresponds to about a third of the Eiffel Tower.
Are you really going to tow the iceberg?
The iceberg is not towed for the whole distance. The force of the tugboat is needed to manoeuvre the iceberg
into a favourable position in a stream, or to move it from one stream to another.
We use ocean currents for transport over 80% of the routes. Quite naturally, without further use of energy. The tugboat is responsible for ensuring controlled and safe transport during these transport phases.
How long does a transport journey last?
Depending on the size of the iceberg, its shape underwater, the season and weather conditions, it takes between 20 and 30 days. We aim to keep this period as short as possible, and to make it even shorter in the long term. Not through more use of energy, but through steadily finding more efficient routing and other variables.
Are you stealing the iceberg from Antarctica?
No. We will only look for and use icebergs outside of any Antarctic protection zones, far away from the Antarctic mainland, at the 60th parallel south.
Do you always need mega icebergs?
It doesn’t make sense to use mega icebergs. From a certain point of view, we do also work with mega icebergs, but our target size is significantly smaller compared to other approaches. At the beginning, we will concentrate on a mass of approx. 4 million tonnes. That will be the maximum size. In the long term, it’s not possible to use mega icebergs. Dimensions of 10 to 100 million tonnes pose a significant safety risk. The energy required to move and secure such masses can be viewed as harmful to the environment.
How do you slow down the iceberg when it nears the coast?
The iceberg is slowed down in a controlled manner and then anchored. This is almost the most important phase in the entire project. If we didn’t secure the iceberg appropriately, it could drift uncontrollably towards the coast
and run aground. Due to its depth, this would cause severe damage to the seabed. Plainly speaking: the environment would be damaged. In addition, such a mass would trigger strong waves. This would lead to a security problem in densely populated stretches of coast. None of this is an option, although we have already heard such ideas. It’s all about security, environmental security. That is why we started collaborating with the IWES Fraunhofer Institute to research and develop an environmentally friendly anchoring system.
Isn't that all very dangerous for coastal regions?
No, because we operate far from the coast, move outside shipping lines, and secure the iceberg similar to an oil rig or a large ship on the high seas. Safety is not only the top priority here, it is the highest priority in all areas.
How do you obtain the water?
The water is obtained in a multi-stage process. On the one hand, a lake forms on table icebergs over time, from which we continuously pump the water out. On the other hand, the iceberg gradually calves (chunks of ice break off) from the outside to the inside. The chunks of ice are collected as they fall into the sea and melted in a controlled manner. All of the water now goes through analysis. A floating water station, specially developed for this purpose, analyses and filters every drop of water at high speed, before it is pumped into the waterbags. The waterbags serve as storage and transport units.
Why do you use waterbags and not tankers?
We rely on a concept that allows us to store water without the use of energy, and which is therefore CO2-neutral.
We only use the cold energy of the sea for this purpose. Only a little energy is then required for the transport.
The carbon footprint is therefore very positive in relation to the water mass. A small tugboat that tows several waterbags is enough. A tanker is too expensive and it requires a lot of energy even when empty. We do not think that these factors can be combined today.
Do you earn money with POLEWATER?
Yes, by selling the water. We will offer part of it as bottled water. We will finance the entire project with the income. It simply wouldn’t work without money. Furthermore, countries may buy the water in large volumes. In this situation we act like a water delivery service, only we deliver waterbags to ports instead of delivering water boxes to the 5th floor. With this approach, we enable countries to only pay for what they order. For water. You do not need to Invest in billions in technology or in large amounts of energy. That lowers investments, reduces
expenses and time – you don’t have to construct anything in order to get water. We will deliver it right away.
And it reduces CO2 in the countries that choose to do so. We understand it only as an additional modern,
environmentally friendly and economical option to procure water. No one has to enter into any three-way deals with us. There is no political obligation. It’s free.
Disaster areas are supported on a cost-neutral basis. Ailing regions that have no economic leeway whatsoever are supported in cooperation with NGOs.
Why is POLEWATER not run as an association?
Because we believe that this is the only way to survive in the long term. We do not follow the concept of dependence on donations. To flatter the world out there year after year in order to get money.
And when the money is gone, the flattery still has to continue. We’re also not starting a non-profit company in order just to save on taxes, in addition to a social facade. We view ourselves clearly as a social business.
We are service providers offering a valuable service – and that can and must have a price. It’s the only way for us to build a strong and independent organisation. We want to involve people and give them the opportunity to participate.
Significant investments are required in the initial and development phases. Security, environmental protection, and modern and new methods cost a lot of money. We must therefore have the option for people to invest in POLEWATER and allow them to have the security of their investment.
Do you have any further questions? If so, we would be happy if you to send us further questions that we would then be able to add to the list of FAQs. This is so that we know what’s on your mind, and we can share this with the community.
Just send your question(s) to email@example.com.
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