Company Is Removing Greenland's Glaciers to Sell "Glacier Ice" Cocktails

Anna Garrison - Author

Jan. 10 2024, Updated 1:01 p.m. ET

Contrary to popular belief, clean drinking water is only a finite resource. Despite many people taking it for granted, only some globally have access to clean drinking water. According to the CDC, 2 billion people do not have access to clean water in their homes. With pollution and the climate crisis contaminating waterways, some have turned to alternative solutions for finding clean water, such as drinking glacier water.

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In January 2024, the argument for drinking glacier water rose again when a startup announced it was selling glacier ice to the United Arab Emirates to use in upscale cocktail bars. Is glacier water safe to drink? Here's everything you should know about glacier water, explained.

Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia, Argentina
Source: iStock
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Is glacier water safe to drink?

According to an article from Outside Magazine in 2018 (updated in 2022), there is human fecal matter in glacial water. Michael Loso, a geologist with the National Parks Service and author of the 2012 study "Glacial Transport of Human Waste and Survival of Fecal Bacteria," told the outlet that "Everything we've got points toward the poop and bacteria lasting indefinitely when it's buried in the ice."

Therefore, if you were to drink straight glacial water, you would likely be consuming fecal matter and bacteria with it.

Additionally, the U.S. National Parks Service (NPS) recommends against drinking water from a natural source that hasn't been filtered or purified.

The NPS website explains, "Water in a stream, river or lake may look clean, but it can still be filled with bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can result in waterborne diseases, such as cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis. It is essential that you purify natural water."

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Portion of the Hubbard glacier in Alaska
Source: iStock

Here's why glaciers are important.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), glacier melts provide water to communities and irrigate crops in certain areas of the world, such as Switzerland's Rhone Valley. Not to mention, glacier melts also provide nutrients for phytoplankton that serve as the basis for marine life food chains. They can also generate hydroelectric power!

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NASA explains that the white surfaces of glaciers actually reflect the sun's rays and help to, in part, keep the planet cool. The U.S. Geological Survey notes that glaciers account for 69 percent of the world's fresh water, but if all the glaciers melted, the sea level would rise to unprecedented and catastrophic levels.

Extreme glacial melts can even impact the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean, the collapse of certain food industries, and an increase in catastrophic storms, per the World Wildlife Foundation.

Thus, it's important for glaciers to keep glaciers intact — the more glaciers are tampered with, as a result of climate change or human interference, the greater likelihood of significant damage to our fragile ecosystem.

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Glacier ice collapse.
Source: iStock

A company called Arctic Ice is selling Greenland glacier ice to bars in the United Arab Emirates.

An article by The Guardian on Jan. 9, 2024, highlights a new business called Arctic Ice that harvests glacial ice from Greenland and then ships to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to sell to high-end cocktail bars. Per The Guardian, using glacial ice in drinks is a "common practice" in Greenland, but the announcement of this business endeavor concerned many people on social media.

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According to Arctic Ice co-founder Malik V Rasmussen, glacial ice is in high demand because it is "completely without bubbles and melts more slowly than regular ice." Glacial ice is also purer than Dubai's frozen mineral water typically used in their ice cubes, reports The Guardian.

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Despite the Arctic Ice website claiming, "These parts of the ice sheets have not been in contact with any soils or contaminated by pollutants produced by human activities. This makes Arctic Ice the cleanest H2O on Earth," many on social media are skeptical about the business.

"Bro they’re selling pieces of the melting glaciers to cocktail bars," one person commented on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Another person wrote, "Someone drinking a cocktail at a gaudy Dubai bar infected with an ancient parasite trapped in the glacial ice is definitely how our species ends."

In 2023, scientists discovered permafrost viruses in the Arctic, which could awaken as global temperatures rise. These viruses have remained infectious for thousands of years, and humans have no current immunity.

Despite backlash that the company did not expect, Arctic Ice maintains that the shipping of glacier ice is more environmentally-friendly than others, per The Guardian, due to the low carbon intensity required to ship the ice from Greenland to Denmark. Once the ice reaches Denmark, it is transferred to another ship to the UAE. The company told The Guardian that it is are working on becoming "carbon neutral" — but it seems pretty impossible for this product to actually be a positive thing for planet Earth.

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