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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.
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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.
Most people have heard Earth referred to as “the water planet.” With that name comes the rightful image of a world with plentiful water.
In photographs taken from space, we can see that our planet has more water than land.
However, of all the water on Earth, more than 99 percent of Earth’s water is unusable by humans and many other living things — only about 0.3 percent of our fresh water is found in the surface water of lakes, rivers and swamps.
The teacher guide describes our current understanding of water cycling and freshwater issues that affect natural and human communities.
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.
Most people have heard Earth referred to as “the water planet.” With that name comes the rightful image of a world with plentiful water. In photographs taken from space, we can see that our planet has more water than land. However, of all the water on Earth, more than 99 percent of Earth’s water is unusable by humans and many other living things — only about 0.3 percent of our fresh water is found in the surface water of lakes, rivers and swamps.The teacher guide describes our current understanding of water cycling and freshwater issues that affect natural and human communities.
Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?
Clean fresh water is a limited and valuable resource. In this module, students consider the question: will there be enough fresh water? Students explore the distribution and uses of fresh water on Earth. They explore models of porosity and permeability, run experiments with computational models, and hear from a hydrologist working on the same question.
1. Engage students in thinking about how fresh water is used.
Tell students in this activity they will be taking a close look at how humans use water — both in direct and indirect ways. They will examine the relationship between freshwater distribution and populations, and they will analyze the costs and benefits of putting dams on rivers and streams. To
2. Introduce the concept of systems in Earth’s water resources.
Tell students that forecasting what will happen to Earth’s fresh water supplies is a complicated process because there are many different interacting parts. Tell students that scientists think about how one part of the system can affect other parts of the system. Give students a simple example of a system, as described in the scenario below.
3.Have students launch the Using Fresh Water interactive.
Provide students with the link to the Using Fresh Water interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping to allow groups to share a computer workstation. Tell students that they will be working through a series of pages of data with questions related to the data. Ask students to work through the activity in their groups, discussing and responding to questions as they go.
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