7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities

Living underwater is actually possible, and you could be moving to an underwater city in the near future.
Donovan Alexander

The idea of humans living underwater may not be as crazy as you think. An idea once reserved for video games or science fiction, underwater cities may be a viable solution for humanity in the distant future.

Would you pack up your bags, clear out your apartment, and move to an underwater paradise? Perhaps you might even dream of living like the fictional city of Atlantis. If it makes sense to go out and colonize Mars, the ocean is just as livable and is far closer to home. As you probably already know, the earth is 71% water. This could be prime real estate for future generations.

Living underwater does pose its fair share of challenges, like cold temperatures, immense pressure, and a lack of oxygen. Not to mention, long-term underwater living can wreak havoc on your body. 

However, there are promising new horizons in the world of the underwater living that could tackle these issues and have you or your future children living comfortably underwater in the coming years.


1. Underwater cities are not a new idea

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
Source: Cousteau

Though not as frequently touted as some forms of space colonization, underwater living has titillated futurists since the beginning of the 20th century. However, it was the iconic ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau who made this idea a reality, bringing it to fruition in the early 1960s.

For the uninitiated, Jacques Yves Cousteau was a French oceanographer, researcher, filmmaker, and undersea explorer, who was largely responsible for igniting the interest of the general public in the ocean, and the eventual possibility of underwater cities.

Cousteau was so passionate about understanding and exploring the world's oceans that he created the famous Conshelf series of underwater habitats.

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
Source: Cousteau

The structures allowed 'oceanauts' to live underwater for days, or even weeks at a time. Each iteration of the shelters (Conshelf I, II, III) improved over time, eventually allowing six oceanauts to live underwater at a full 328 feet (100 meters) below the surface.

Cousteau’s efforts to colonize the ocean laid the foundation for the future of underwater cities. In fact, Conshelf sparked a craze, and in the late 60s and early 70s, more than 60 underwater habitats were dotted across the seabeds, with names like Sealab, Hydrolab, Edalhab, Helgoland, Galathee, Tektite, Aquabulle, Hippocampe.

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2. The depth of the colony affects everything

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
The Chinese underwater/floating city project. Source: AT Design

How humans breathe underwater, and the depth of the structure, are correlated, dictating how the structure should be created and the mixture of air humans will need to breathe in their underwater city.

First and foremost, it appears that humans should not build colonies deeper than 1,000 feet (300 meters), and ideally at much shallower depths.

This is because the pressure at these depths would not only require very thick walls but would also require lengthy periods of decompression when returning to the surface.

At these depths, humans need to take extra measures to ensure that there is a healthy ratio of oxygen to other gases in the air, as the body requires varying levels of different air components when at pressure. Plants and artificial light could possibly be used to supply some oxygen, but depth, nitrogen, or helium would also be needed.

3. Food wouldn't be a problem in our underwater city

The good news is that living on the ocean floor could provide humans with ready access to seafood and sea plants. There are aquanauts who are currently living underwater, who are able to partially support themselves via spearfishing, combined with canned and preserved foods. 

Even more so, more traditional meals and even freshwater could be transported through tunnel or hose systems connected to the surface.

4. Living underwater will give us a better understanding of the ocean

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
The Chinese floating/underwater city project. Source: AT Design

The idea of living underwater is of particular interest to scientists around the world, including marine biologists. Scientists and researchers have better maps of Mars than they do of Earth’s own ocean floors. To this date, humans have only explored 3% of the ocean.

Living underwater could also help give scientists a better understanding of the planet and the evolution of life on Earth. Not to mention, there are likely a host of resources still to be discovered on the ocean floor.

Experts predict there could be an unquantifiable amount of minerals and metals that could be used to improve humanity and even help with the further construction of underwater cities.

5. There are architects already working on underwater city plans

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
Source: Shimizu Corporation

Architects at the Shimizu Corporation have already designed a $26 billion project to create an underwater city. According to the Tokyo-based company, their project would allow thousands of humans to live very comfortably underwater.

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
Source: Shimizu Corporation

Though most of it is still just a concept, the Ocean Spiral City would sit below sea level off the coast of Tokyo. With its massive turbines, the city would power itself through the power of waves, tide, and ocean currents, supporting those who lived on the structure.

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
Source: Shimizu Corporation

The structure would be able to support 5,000 people, and would include labs, schools, and beautiful residential areas. The underwater city could become a reality by around 2030.

6. The technology already exists… Sort of

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
The floating underwater ecopolis for climate refugees. Source: Vincent Callebaut Architects

Right now, humans have the ability to create underwater colonies that could support upwards of 100 people. As a biology professor at Stanford University Ian Koblick states, "There are no technological hurdles. If you had the money and the need, you could do it today."


Constructed with steel, glass, and special cement, habitats are more likely to have a modular design than the more popular conception of a big, underwater bubble or dome.

Structures could be added or subtracted from the underwater colony to help fit population needs. Larger underwater colonies are already feasible. What keeps them from coming into fruition is a lack of interest, motivation, and funding.

7. It could help preserve humanity

Hopefully, it won't get to this, but living underwater could help to save the human species in the case of a major apocalyptic event. Philip Pauley, founder of the London-based visual communications consultancy Pauley, has designed a self-sustaining habitat that could save 50-100 people during a disaster scenario.

7 Things You Should Know About the Future of Underwater Cities
Source: Philip Pauley

One way to combat the growing threat of war, limited resources, or global warming may come from moving populations underwater.

To the future

Would you live in an underwater city? You may not get the full Rapture experience yet; however, there are already restaurants and hotels that are popping up around the world that allow people to experience limited underwater living. It is probably more comfortable than living on Mars.

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