Have we reached peak sand?

The NYT seems to think we have.

Now much of that sand is gone. Though reports are still preliminary, coastal researchers say that when Hurricane Sandy came ashore, it washed enormous quantities of sand off beaches and into the streets — or even all the way across barrier islands into the bays behind them.

But even if there is money for that work, engineers must find the sand. Around the nation, that is getting more and more difficult. The problem is particularly acute in New Jersey.

“We know from geological surveys — and New Jersey is a prime example — that offshore sand, high-quality sand, is a highly finite resource,” said S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal scientist with the United States Geological Survey and the University of Hawaii.

Erm, what?

Storms move sand around: they don\’t destroy it.

21 thoughts on “Have we reached peak sand?”

  1. Let’s assume you have a wine cellar, and I take all of the bottles of wine in this wine cellar, and I pour them into your fishpond. The wine has been moved around, not destroyed. It’s still there, in your fishpond.

    This isn’t much help.

    Sand that’s useful is either in a single place on land, on a beach, or on a sandbank. Which is what ‘offshore sand’ is. Sand that’s evenly distributed in seawater is no bloody use at all, until a long time later when it’s settled into a sandbank or formed a beach.

    Dearieme wins, though.

  2. Serf (1st comment) nails it. Where the fuck do they think sand comes from?
    To answer my own question, they don’t. Or are we back to running out of stones again?

  3. Public works officials tend to be held to a slightly tighter timeframe than geology can deliver, despite obvious jokes to the contrary.

    And, while grinding stones to make sand super-fast is certainly achievable, it is notably more expensive than if you had sand in the first place.

  4. Sand tends to be quarried, in the UK at least, not taken off beaches and sand dunes. They are all protected natural habitats. So they could all be washed away in storms, and the supply of building material would be unaffected.

  5. A lot of the sand taken from beaches is used to create artificial beaches elsewhere according to the article. So because some towns can’t have their artificial beaches replenished (sand doesn’t stay in one place) they are complaining about the storm destroying their livelyhood, when in fact they have been destroying nature by creating fake beaches.

  6. “And sand from the seashore is naff-all use in construction. Not coarse enough, to start with.”

    Plus, it’s salty, so not good for construction where it (as part of concrete) would be connected to metals. Unless you wash it well, which in turn is a process that someone will find is polluting a lot…

    Sand used to be a valuable natural resource over here. Nowadays different granularity crushed rock is readily available over here, often from underground mining works (such as building railway and other tunnels). Sand dunes etc are protected and must not be touched.

  7. I remember reading in the history of Leighton Buzzard that before WW1 the UK didn’t need to quarry sand since more than enough came as ballast in all the empty ships that arrived to export our manufactures. With WW1 we imported more than we exported so there was no supply of free sand and they had to start digging it out (in Leighton Buzzard for example).

    Given we import more volume of stuff than we export, are we suffering a net loss of sand now?

  8. Is the ‘sand’ at Brighton beach still as I remember it?
    Australians don’t have sand of that calibre – but they do have rocks.
    Or is this sandist?

  9. So Much For Subtlety

    Doesn’t all sand come out of the anuses of Parrot fish? Or is that just an urban (maritime?) legend?

  10. Generally Americans only speak their private little lingo, but for those, who have some command of German, here’s a very disturbing documentary, aired on German-French TV station Arte, some week ago.


    And for those Americans, who linguistically never ventured beyond their doomed realm of stupidity and arrogance, here’s a Google translation of the introductory text:

    ‘Sand is now part of many everyday products, more often than oil. We find sand in food, cosmetics, cleaning products, but also in electronic products such as computers, cell phones and credit cards. However, the largest sand demand caused by the global building boom due to population growth and economic development in emerging countries. Reinforced concrete consists of cement to one third and two thirds of sand. Given this need sand in recent years become a resource of vital importance. Desert sand is – you can hardly believe it – not suitable for concrete processing. Therefore, construction companies have been mined sand from river beds or gravel pits. But this supply is running low, and so the construction industry has taken the seabed targeted – an ecological time bomb. The documentary shows locations around the globe: the illegal sand mining in Morocco due to the booming tourism industry, which inevitably leads to the disappearance of entire beaches, the need for expansion of Singapore, further imported sand from neighboring countries, in spite of all prohibitions, the disappearance of entire islands for illegal sand mining in Indonesia, the pharaohs stick construction projects in Dubai, where the own sand resources have been depleted and now sand from Australia is imported, the machinations of the Indian mafia that controls the construction of the country, while its own population must continue to live in slums, filling the Florida beaches that are washed away nine-tenths, and finally the battle of the population in France, where companies secure locations near the coast to degrade in protected areas of sand from the seabed. The documentary explains the context and background of a disastrous value chain and, with the support of NGOs and scientists an unprecedented human, social and ecological disaster days.’

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