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Science & Technology

World's oldest flowing water discovered

By T.K. Randall
May 17, 2013 · Comment icon 25 comments

Image Credit: CC 3.0 Arild Vagen
An isolated reservoir untouched for up to 2.64 billion years has been found at a mine in Ontario.
The water has been cut off for so long that it dates back to when the first multicellular life appeared on Earth. Rich in dissolved gases the reservoir is located deep underground and could potentially play host to primitive microbial life. If this turns out to be the case then it could mean that water trapped deep beneath the surface of other planets could also prove hospitable.

"What we can be sure of is that we have identified a way in which planets can create and preserve an environment friendly to microbial life for billions of years," said geochemist Greg Holland. "This is regardless of how inhospitable the surface might be, opening up the possibility of similar environments in the subsurface of Mars."
Water found in a deep, isolated reservoir in Timmins, Ont. , has been trapped there for 1. 5 billion to 2. 64 billion years — since around the time the first multicellular life arose on the planet - Canadian and British scientists say.

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Comment icon #16 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
I would love to hear your your reason for disagreeing with me. Please explain! Well, water forms and breaks up all the time. Dissolve anything in water and that's some gone. Likewise if you throw some free hydrogen and oxygen together, you'll form some more.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
I think both of you are slightly misinformed and confused. The onset of the age of groudwater starts from precipitation and percolation into groundwater. In very basic terms, the water they have found last went through the hydrological cycle 2.64 billion years ago (2.64 billion year old rainwater). The atmospheric tracers captured within the water from the time of recharge is what we measure to calculate the age. For me, the most useful thing about aging groundwater is that it gives useful recharge estimations for water balances. The fact that the water in Timmins mine has remained separate fr... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
"Dissolve anything in water and thats gone" - this is misleading, the water does not reduce. You have simply upped the concentration. "Throw some free hydrogen and oxygen" - unfortunately this has no basis in nature and to actually do this artificially requires huge ammounts of energy. I'm not sure what degree you have (chemistry maybe?), but I hold a degree in geology and a masters in hydrogeology along with 5 years experience of mining hydrogeology. I deal with water issues in mines all over the world on a daily basis for my job. I'd like to think that I followed on from my degree. My degree... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
Now pyrite oxidation is a little more complex and we are delving into slight differences in definition. Chemically you are absolutely right but the wider picture is that this sort of reaction just creates "contaminated water" which can be reversed using remediation techniques. The water ceases to be water. The fact that you call it that in mining for convenience does not change that. You can then create water from compounds such as sulphuric acid. My original point. I deal with mine closure as well so am well aware of the legacy of mining (thanks for that snide comment, by the way), Any time. ... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
You clearly don't have any grasp on the concept of hydrogeology and how to apply it to large groundwater problems. Riight... Obviously four years at one of the top universities in the country studying precisely that, wouldn't teach any of that I refer you to my earlier question, just where did you study? The oxidation of pyrite, for example, at the end of the day is releasing H+ INTO THE WATER that that then lowers pH and maintains the solubility of ferric iron. There is no magical transformation of the entire discharge, it is simply highly concentrated and highly contaminated. And where did I... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
Honestly, kid, I haven't got time for this. If you want to learn more, find some work experience. And yet you had time to jump in before... Interesting that you don't when someone asks hard questions. Well, enjoy screwing up the planet. See if you can learn some chemistry while you're there.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
I would be happy to find time to talk to someone in a civilised manner and to share some of the details from our current projects. Unfortunately, you feel the need to not only to prove a point with a somewhat aggressive overtone but also to insult me and attempt to belittle my education. So no, I haven't got time for a kid who clearly has got a lot of growing up to do. And also, don't come out with the line "I go to one of the top universities"... that really doesn't sit well with people, it will be hard enough for you to get a job in this economic climate as it is. Given that your opening lin... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
The teaching seems very different to Durham?? You got that from our conversation? Ok, so not only did I study geology and hydrogeology (I don't really think environmental geoscience is a fair comparison, unless your integrated masters is more related) Perhaps if you looked into what environmental geoscience is, you'd understand the comparison. Effectively, it's the same as Durham's geology course but with less focus on structural geology and mineralogy and more focus on hydrology, chemistry and pollution. My entire dissertation was related to water systems and the chemistry of them. The master... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by Setton 11 years ago
Unfortunately for you, an understanding of structural geology is critical to hydrogeology. Particuarly in mining environments since most mineralisation of ore is enriched with the aid of fluid flow through fractures. Rarely does a mine present itself with a homogenous porous aquifer, unless your dealing with commodities such as Uranium sandstone deposts which have formed in palaeochannels, or boring quaries. Well done on the "12x" statement, it just goes to show how much growing up you have to do, I guess you missed my masters in hydrogeology when summing that up. As you plainly missed my mast... [More]
Comment icon #25 Posted by alibongo 11 years ago
I've got a diploma in Swimming, so you can't tell me anything about water!

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