Posted by: leahbiery | January 8, 2010

Where is All the Water?

Take a minute to picture a body of water in your mind. Is it a lake, pond, river or ocean? Not all of us are lucky enough to live near the sea, but nearly everyone walks, bikes, or drives by a body of freshwater every day. Even if we don’t see it on a daily basis, we bathe in it, drink it, and use it for cooking. Because freshwater plays such a prominent role in our lives, it can be easy to forget about the vastness and importance of the salty ocean.  It is also difficult to comprehend how little freshwater actually exists on Earth.

NOAA recently published a series of surprising statistics about the distribution of water on our planet. I knew that the ocean was huge, but I was amazed to read that it holds 97 percent of the water on Earth. Only three percent of the water on Earth is fresh, and 69 percent of that is frozen in glaciers and icecaps. An additional portion of the freshwater on our planet is in the atmosphere and underground. Rivers, lakes and ponds may seem common, but they account for less than one percent of our water!

I created a pie chart to help illustrate the distribution of water on Earth.

Next time you drink a refreshing glass of water, keep in mind that accessible freshwater is a very limited commodity on our planet. You can do simple things to conserve this precious resource like turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, shortening showers, and disposing of chemicals responsibly.  You can find more ideas here.

Also, remember that the ocean is huge- making up 70 percent of the Earth’s surface area! Due in part to its large size, it plays an important role in global temperature regulation, and provides food, livelihood, and enjoyment for millions of people. All rivers lead to the sea, so by protecting our freshwater resources we are also protecting the ocean.  Because the ocean connects every continent, individual actions can have a worldwide impact. Let’s all do our best to make that impact a positive one.

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