It’s not often you get to speak to someone who gave bad news to Gaddafi, but that’s exactly what I did during the 2021 NOAH conference.
Alain Gachet is the founder and CEO of RTI Exploration. He is a nuclear physicist by training, with a specialism in quantum mechanics.
Today Alain helps positively change the fate of nations and millions of people by identifying precious fresh water reserves locked away in aquifers, but this isn’t where his career started.
NOAH Conference, 2021
Impact Tech Leader Interview With:
Alain spent 20 years using his scientific skills as an exploration geophysicist in oil companies to find new hydrocarbon fields. After realising the immorality of these companies, he turned his back from oil to water to find something more positive to focus his talents on.
Alain’s expertise at finding precious things in hard to reach places was already well known, and soon he found himself helping mining companies discover valuable Rare Earth minerals in hard to reach places.
During this time, Alain meticulously refined his methodology. Alain’s approach relied on GPS technology and satellite radar imagery in remote areas - both of which were much less mature, and much less open than they are today. The technology he needed to build these systems simply wasn’t available to civilians in France, so during his frequent travels to Washington, USA, he began to acquire the computer parts he needed from well known shopping malls to assemble back in Europe.
The Leaky Man-Made River
Utilising this technology Alain undertook projects to discover new mineral resources, leading to a big project in Libya. During this project Alain noticed anomalies along the path of Gaddafi’s infamous “Great man-made river”.
Investigating these images, Alain realised he had detected vast amounts of water leaking from the man-made river. This was both an exciting and nerve-wracking discovery, one that he was invited to share with Gaddafi himself.
Accompanied by a regional expert, Alain presented his images and data, highlighting leaks that accounted for approximately 60% of the entire water flow. Alain recalls the reaction of Gaddafi, and how meticulously his escape return from Libya was both planned and executed.
Over a billion people have no easy access to drinking water. Something like 1.8 million children die each year from diseases linked to drinking bad water.
Following the realisation that his methodology and technology could be used to find water, Alain refined his algorithms to spot water reservoirs deeper and deeper underground.
A few months later, during the Darfur crisis, using these new algorithms he discovered aquifers on the Sudan-Chad border to provide fresh water for 250,000 people. Six months after that, he discovered enough water in Sudan to satisfy three million internally displaced persons (IDP) after a period of six months.
His divining abilities have been used to find water in war-torn countries across Africa and the Middle East, and in Niger he discovered aquifers just 5-50m below the surface that could provide irrigation for 2 million hectares of crops. Alain excitedly described to me that, with this, Niger, one of the poorest countries in the G5 Sahel, could redefine its future as a new, more sustainable California.
A giant aquifer discovery in South Africa poses the potential to provide an entirely new source of water for the entire Pretoria region, and when combined with emerging solar infrastructure, he sees potential for South Africa as a major player in the green hydrogen energy market.
I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Alain. His story is inspiring on so many levels, in particular how he turned his back on the destructive practices of big oil, and evolved his expertise and technologies to be a power for good. This should act as inspiration for all those people and companies who struggle with reconciling their less-than-sustainable past with a more sustainable future.
Beyond that I should point out that Alain has received many prestigious awards and recognition for his work, including being elected into the Space Technology Hall of Fame, on recommendation of NASA and the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, USA, for having significantly improved the lives of millions of people around the world, using fundamental physics and space technologies.
Lastly, one of the statistics that amazed me was that only 3% of the planets freshwater is easily accessible in rivers and lakes. The remaining 97% is locked underground in shallow and deep aquifers.
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