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Bulk Water Exports

Blue Lake in Sitka, Alaska. Photo by Don Kluting

As global freshwater resources become more scarce, many options are on the table to reduce demand and increase supplies. While conservation, desalination, and pipeline diversion schemes are well-known potential solutions, an emerging possibility is bulk water export: shipping water in 80-million-gallon tankers, typically designed for oil. Bulk water shipments have been discussed for decades, but large-volume shipments have never been successful. Proposed deals have been blocked by logistics and cheaper local sources, as well as concerns for the sovereignty and commodification of natural resources.

But interest in bulk water may see new life. Sitka, Alaska — a small town along the southeastern coast of the state — has tried to cash in on its abundant water resources. One company's persistent attempts to ship Sitka's fresh water to India and the Middle East has run into turbulence and economic realities. The Sitka proposal and similar stories around the world belie the challenges and the alluring promise of transporting and selling the world's "blue gold."

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