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Over 99 % of the Earth’s fresh water exists in ice formations or underground. IRD geophysicists, aiming to find ways of detecting this resource, are at the spearhead in the development of an innovatory method based on nuclear magnetic resonance. To date, it is the only technique applicable for detecting liquid water underground or under a glacier from the surface and for estimating the volume.
This method recently found an original application as an aid for warning of glacier hazard. It successfully detected the presence of an immense water pocket of 55 000 m3 sitting under the Tête Rousse glacier in Haute-Savoie. This posed a flooding threat to people living in the valley below. Warning was given and the local authorities conducted a draining operation.
This technique is adaptable to glacier risk management, but it can also help for water supply provision. It can benefit both tropical mountain areas, such as the Andes or the Himalaya where glacial water can be a major threat, given the context of climate change, and semi-arid regions where water resources lie stored deep underground.