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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. While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. 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. Not only is the human body 60 percent water, the resource is also essential for producing food, clothing, and computers, moving our waste stream, and keeping us and the environment healthy.
What is the Percentage of Drinkable Water on Earth?
With merely 5% of the ocean floor having been discovered and mapped, and with the deepest part reaching almost 7 miles, water seems to be as abundant as it is ominous.
Yet, it wouldn’t take much of the mineral-rich ocean to dehydrate a human being if consumed. The amount of sodium in seawater is much more concentrated than what the body can safely process, requiring more water as salt is consumed. Eventually, death would come as a result of dehydration without ever having the thirst quenched (Ocean Service).
Of the waters occupying 70%
Of the waters occupying 70% of the earth’s surface, only 3% is considered freshwater. And most of this freshwater reserve is inaccessible to humans — locked up in polar ice caps or stored too far underneath the earth’s surface to be extracted. Furthermore, much of the freshwater that is accessible has become highly polluted.
This leaves us with roughly 0.4% of the earth’s water which is usable and drinkable to be shared among the 7 billion of its inhabitants (World Atlas, 2018).
The earth’s surface waters
The earth’s surface waters travel through a complex network of flowing rivers and streams. Rivers can obtain their water from two sources: base flow and runoff. Base flow is when the river collects its water from water-saturated areas in the ground, adding to its volume. Runoff is when the force of gravity naturally pulls water downhill from higher to lower altitudes. They usually start as small creeks in the mountains, and then gradually merge with larger streams as they flow downward, eventually forming large rivers which empty out into the ocean.
The Hydrologic Cycle
Water Conflicts Around the World
• Violence erupts in 1992 over a dispute between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan regarding the contested Tyuyamuyun reservoir.