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There is the same amount of freshwater on earth as there always has been, but the population has exploded, leaving the world’s water resources in crisis.
A Clean Water Crisis
The water you drink today has likely been around in one form or another since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, hundreds of millions of years ago.
While the amount of freshwater on the planet has remained fairly constant over time—continually recycled through the atmosphere and back into our cups—the population has exploded.
This means that every year competition for a clean, copious supply of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and sustaining life intensifies.
Water scarcity is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social forces.
Freshwater makes up a very small fraction of all water on the planet.
The rest is saline and ocean-based. Even then, just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 0.007 percent of the planet’s water is available to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion people.
Due to geography, climate, engineering, regulation, and competition for resources, some regions seem relatively flush with freshwater, while others face drought and debilitating pollution.
In much of the developing world, clean water is either hard to come by or a commodity that requires laborious work or significant currency to obtain.
Water Is Life
Wherever they are, people need water to survive.
Distribution of the Earth’s water
Earth is known as the “Blue Planet” because 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Water also exists below land surface and as water vapor in the air. Water is a finite source. The bottled water that is consumed today might possibly be the same water that once trickled down the back of a wooly mammoth. The Earth is a closed system, meaning that very little matter, including water, ever leaves or enters the atmosphere; the water that was here billions of years ago is still here now. But, the Earth cleans and replenishes the water supply through the hydrologic cycle.
The earth has an abundance of water, but unfortunately, only a small percentage (about 0.3 percent), is even usable by humans. The other 99.7 percent is in the oceans, soils, icecaps, and floating in the atmosphere. Still, much of the 0.3 percent that is useable is unattainable. Most of the water used by humans comes from rivers. The visible bodies of water are referred to as surface water. The majority of fresh water is actually found underground as soil moisture and in aquifers. Groundwater can feed the streams, which is why a river can keep flowing even when there has been no precipitation. Humans can use both ground and surface water.
Distribution of the water on Earth
- Ocean water: 97.2 percent
- Glaciers and other ice: 2.15 percent
- Groundwater,: 0.61 percent
- Fresh water lakes: 0.009 percent
- Inland seas: 0.008 percent
- Soil Moisture: 0.005 percent
- Atmosphere: 0.001 percent
- Rivers: 0.0001 percent.
Water distribution on Earth
Most water in Earth’s atmosphere and crust comes from saline seawater, while fresh water accounts for nearly 1% of the total. The vast bulk of the water on Earth is saline or salt water, with an average salinity of 35‰ (or 4.5%, roughly equivalent to 34 grams of salts in 1 kg of seawater), though this varies slightly according to the amount of runoff received from surrounding land. In all, water from oceans and marginal seas, saline groundwater and water from saline closed lakes amount to over 97% of the water on Earth, though no closed lake stores a globally significant amount of water. Saline groundwater is seldom considered except when evaluating water quality in arid regions.