U.S. Water News Online
HONOLULU -- A crew of former crab fishermen from Alaska has
found a new livelihood in warmer and less dangerous waters off
Hawaii, harvesting water from 3,000 feet below the surface to use in
everything from beer to face creams.
The crew was hired by Deep Ocean Hawaii, a Honolulu-based company
that is desalinating deep seawater aboard its vessel off Oahu and
then marketing it as an ingredient free of impurities.
The company projects it can become a $50-million business in two
years, eventually pumping 500,000 gallons of fresh deep seawater a
day. It also hopes to develop its shipboard technology as an
emergency source for drinking water.
In just a few years, deep seawater already has become Hawaii's
biggest foreign export, with four other businesses shipping
$37-million worth of bottled seawater a year, mostly for sale in
Japan for up to $5 a bottle.
DOHawaii is the first company that will be exporting the Hawaii
water in giant bladders for use in other products, rather than by the
"We're making ingredients, not the finished product," said Rudy
Ahrens, chief executive of DSH International Inc., which operates as
DOHawaii. "But this is going to add value to products all over the
The benefits and purity of any bottled water over treated tap
water have been debated for years as the bottled water industry has
expanded globally, but desalinated Hawaii deep seawater offers a
It is touted by DOHawaii and other companies as a commodity that
is thousands of years old, protected from modern impurities and
pollution by a layer of the ocean which separates the warm surface
water from colder water near the bottom.
Unlike water found above the thermocline layer, deep seawater
doesn't contain hormones, pollution, pathogens or other compounds as
the water has slowly migrated from the Arctic, said Hans Krock,
professor emeritus in ocean engineering at the University of Hawaii
and president of OCEES International Inc., a renewable energy
"It's basically water that's been isolated from human influences,"
said Krock, who also advises and has a small ownership share in
Independent research confirms deep seawater is more pristine and
isolated from chemicals and other human-caused impurities found near
the surface of the ocean, said Daniel Repeta, a senior scientist with
the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
But the water could still be affected by materials dropped into
the ocean, said Repeta, who has independently studied the deep water
off the Big Island.
DOHawaii's 144-foot Spirit of the North, anchored more than three
miles off the west coast of Oahu recently, started filling
5,200-gallon bladders installed in 20-foot-cargo containers. Current
production is at 80,000 gallons of fresh water a day.
Much of the crew of the ship has spent the past 25 years in Alaska
fishing for king crab, so development of the technology to harvest
the water was a new challenge, said Ken Ostebo, president of
DOHawaii's maritime operation.
"The idea of deep ocean water is simple, but being able to get it
is the key," Ostebo said.
DOHawaii is entering a market developed by Koyo USA Corp. and
other companies based on the Big Island.
DOHawaii is cashing in on an unlimited resource and the reputation
the islands have as an exotic, isolated spot surrounded by relatively
clear and clean waters.
Ahrens said beer companies want to develop "Hawaiian deep-ocean
brews" and health and beauty businesses are searching for purer water
for cleansers, face creams and other products. Companies producing
sauces and juices and those packaging products such as tuna have also
shown interest, and some local hotels plan to use the water in their
spas, he said.
The company has inked contracts with a bottling company in Taiwan
and with Deep Ocean Enterprise, which creates packaging for companies
wanting to sell bottled water.
DOHawaii is also in talks with a major U.S. beer company and
another brewery in Japan, cosmetic companies on the mainland and in
Europe, as well as hotels, said Ahrens, who has a background as a
After researching other methods for nearly four years, DOHawaii
developed a new system which lowers a hose into the ocean and then
pumps it onto a moored boat. The water is then desalinated through
reverse osmosis, packaged in the cargo containers and lifted onto a
barge, which travels back and forth to the shore.
On the Big Island, the state, as a commercial venture, pumps the
water using a 3,000 foot pipeline and then transports it to the
companies, which do the desalination, filtering, bottling and
Four companies already selling the water, and other enterprises
are planning to enter the market, said Ron Baird, chief executive
officer of the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. A Maui
company uses that water to make a vodka called Ocean.
Ahrens recruited retired veteran Air Force pilot Rich Treadway to
serve as his chief operating officer after meeting him during a
flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. Treadway said he hopes to
develop a market with the military, which spends millions of dollars
to get water to troops in desert areas.
Ahrens said a future focus of the company will be on emergency
Since water supplies are often damaged or contaminated in the wake
of hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, DOHawaii hopes
to sell governments the technology to pump, treat and package huge
quantities of offshore water on short notice.
The company has a patent pending on its process, which Ahrens says
also could play a role in an era of major global water disputes.
"Water has become a commodity of conflict," Ahrens said. "I mean
without oil you can't drive, but without water you die."
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