Turning Icebergs into Drinking Water?

This post was published in honor of Blog Action Day 2010 and its theme: water.

It’s a common mistake to confuse ice fields, which are composed of frozen seawater and populated with polar bears, with icebergs, our floating mountains composed of frozen drinking water.

And did you know that, each year, the equivalent of the world’s supply in drinking water melts away into the ocean?

Why should just sit by and let this happen?  Why not use icebergs as an alternative source for drinking water?

This is French Arts & Métiers Engineer Georges Mougin’s dream since 40 years!

At first this idea may seem too outlandish, but perhaps Mougin is a visionary?  Today while the most pessimist prospectors predict a worldwide conflict based on ‘blue gold’ in 2050, Dassault Systèmes has decided to help Mougin reexamine his project with the help of 21st Century technology.

And what if 3D scientific simulation and virtual worlds can give life to an idea that died down last century? Perhaps this was due to technology-linked obstacles and limited knowledge of our oceans and weather.  Perhaps Mougin was ahead of his times . . .

A documentary under the direction of Jean-Michel Corillion is being made to tell this story.  It’s called Ice Dream and in a few months will be broadcast in various countries.  We’ll keep you posted as the details unfold.  But for now, enjoy the sneak preview below!



Cédric Simard is Dassault Systèmes Project Director for Ice Dream

P.S. For more information about our water challenges, watch this video made especially for Blog Action Day 2010.




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  • Jorma Tarkki

    I’d like to get access to the 12-minute version of the Ice Dream story. Based on the short clipse, I’m really looking forward to learning more!

  • Kate

    Hi Jorma, thanks for your comment. Yes the special 12-minute version is still available. I’ll send you the link via email. Would love to know what you think! Best, Kate

  • charles chopin

    I’d definitely like to see more of the video, but I have to say that the thought of moving massive amounts of ice from cold ocean water to warm ocean water sounds more than a bit frightening in terms of its potential environmental impact (the Gulf Stream works the way it does for a reason, and the reason is mostly thermal). This ranks up there with the people who want to use jet turbines to “blow out” hurricanes. Messing with Mother Nature is seldom a good idea . . .

  • Hey Charles! Thanks for your comment!

    I’m not surprised you say that as I was myself worried at the beginning.

    However, when you think about it, icebergs are big compared to a human being but they’re reaaaally small compared to an ocean (and it’s not about taking all the icebergs away) so be sure that the gulf stream will remain untouched! 😉

  • Thanks! We really don’t know which is the best solution and try to improve our skills-technics is a great deal!

  • Hi there, I’m writing an article on this story for my newspaper, The Fresh Outlook, we’re based in Cardiff in the UK. I’d like to get in contact with someone from your organisation to discuss this story, could someone please give me a call on +44 (0) 2920766189 ? My deadline is 4 pm today, any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Shahnaz

  • Hey Shahnaz!

    I think Cedric called you earlier today right? Can you share with us the link to your article?

    Cheers! 🙂

  • J Bigger

    I am glad to see this concept has been kept alive and now has some “real numbers” and a technical team behind it.

    In the early 1970s, I was involved with personnel from The Rand Corporation (Santa Monica, California) and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to evaluate the iceberg-for-water concept. A series of discussions and working sessions were held regarding the capture, towing, and utilizing icebergs from the Antarctic in the Southern California area as a supplemental source of fresh water. The water would have been for the southwestern U. S. and northern Mexico region. Support for this initial effort was from a Saudi Arabian source.

    All aspects of the venture were explored in the discussions, but neither iceberg computer models were developed nor towing tests conducted. Only conceptual models and estimates were developed.

    Each aspect of the venture was evaluated: from capture and protection of the iceberg through towing routes and types of tugs – conventional diesel and atomic-powered – to the holding and harvesting the ice. One harvesting alternative considered was to utilize waste heat from the LADWP (and other utilities’) powerplants along the California coast to support the conversion from ice to water. And since the Environmental Protection Act of 1969 had recently been enacted, this aspect was included in the initial evaluation and discussions.

    As I remember, the projected economics were positive. However, funding to support continuation of the effort did not come through.

  • Hi Jo, thanks for your comment and historical retrospective, which is pretty consistent with Georges Mougin’s own endeavor. For further technical details and history, please have a look at http://www.3ds.com/icedream/ . Actually there’s a full-length documentary about this project!

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  • Good post. I’m dealing with some of these issues as well..