Someone just asked me if it would be practical to counter the rise of sea level by pumping water into storage on land. It struck me that if there is enough land below sea level, this would require construction of aquifers, but would not require using energy to pump the water as the destination of the water would be below its current level. But I have no idea how much land below sea level is available.

  • $\begingroup$ If it is below sea level it is not quite "dry land". What you are thinking of is the continental shelf areas. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think they are talking about continental shelves, but land that is below sea level (e.g., The Netherlands). $\endgroup$
    – arkaia
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ I misunderstood. Then the question already has an answer on GIS.sx $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Not quite an answer, but a list of depressions is provided in Geology.com $\endgroup$
    – user889
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Note that the areas used for storage wouldn't necessarily have to be below sea level, just a closed (endorheic) basin, like the Great Basin of the US (little of any of which is below 4000 ft/1300m elevation). Of course it would take enormous amounts of energy to lift sea water that high, plus salt water would cause environmental damage. But it would be a modest engineering project to e.g. re-route the headwaters of the Feather River through a tunnel to the east. And at the moment, I think folks downstream of Oroville Dam might approve :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 6:04

1 Answer 1


This question is intriguing. At the current rate of sea rise (about 3 mm per year), all of the Earth's dry land below sea level would be submerged in just a decade. There are an estimated 49 countries around the global with at least some real estate below -0- metres elevation, but the sum of all the potential volume (around 7,500 km^3) is insignificant compared to the volume of water generated by glacial and ice cap melt: "A meter of sea level rise is a volume 50 times greater than all of the depressions that are below sea level in the world", according to this link: http://mountainmystery.com/2015/08/17/hiding-rising-seas-in-sunken-deserts/.


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