Fresh Water Remaining on Earth’s Surface is Shockingly Small

image credit: USGS

The total amount of fresh water on earth is a precious commodity. Although you might think there’s plenty of it – when you comprehend the following statistics and put it in perspective, it may seem otherwise…

Only 0.000067 of the total water on earth is available on the surface as non-saline fresh water in our rivers, lakes, and streams.

That’s just 1/150th of one percent of the total water on the planet! 0.0067 percent. That’s how precious our fresh water is.

That tiny slice is illustrated as follows:

Most of the water within the Water Cycle of the earth is saline (salt) in the oceans.

In fact, approximately 96% of all water on the planet is salt water.

Of the remaining approximate 4 percent of the earth’s total water (the ‘fresh’ water), most of it is unavailable and locked up in ice caps and glaciers (68.7 percent).

30 percent (of the 4 percent fresh water) is deep in the ground.

That leaves just 1.3 percent (of the 4 percent fresh water) — of which 70 percent is in ground ice and permafrost…

…which leaves just 30 percent (of the 1.3 percent of the 4 percent total fresh water) to be fresh (non-saline) water on the surface of the earth!

Within that tiny remaining slice, we have our fresh water in lakes, swamps, marshes, rivers, soil and the atmosphere.

When you wrap your head around that, you may realize that our fresh water is a precious commodity, especially knowing that we as humans literally cannot survive much beyond a few or several days without it…



Data sources:
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” of “Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources” (Oxford University Press, Peter H. Gleick, 1993)

Water volume, in cubic miles

Total water on earth: 332,511,874
Total fresh water*: 11,511,874
Total fresh water**: 8,403,384

Ice Caps, Glaciers and Permanent Snow: 5,773,000
Groundwater (non-saline): 2,526,000
Ground Ice and Permafrost: 71,970
Lakes (non-saline): 21,830
Soil Moisture: 3,959
Atmosphere: 3,095
Swamp: 2,752
Rivers: 509
Biological: 269

*including saline portion of lake and groundwater
**excluding saline portion of lake and groundwater

When making plans for survival & preparedness, fresh drinking water should be a top priority. Don’t take it for granted. Know where sources are (beyond that of your faucet tap) and have a means to purify it for drinking.

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