Water Natural Resources

Water: An Important Natural Resource Used Every Day

  February 25, 2013 | SpaHub's Editors
Water is a liquid that is essential for the survival of human beings and other living things. More than 60% of human body weight is made up of water. Other than consuming water for survival, human beings also use the liquid for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from maintenance of hygiene to the production of energy.
Water Resource
Almost two thirds of the Earth are covered in water yet there many parts of the world that lack water from droughts, improper/inadequate resourcing or other reasons. One of the main reasons why there's so little to go around is because almost 97% of this water is saline which is what ocean and seawater is. Saltwater cannot be consumed. Fresh water is what we need but most of these sources can only be found frozen in the glaciers of the North and South Poles. Drinkable water is found in either freshwater rivers, lakes or beneath the ground surface under rocks and soil which is also called groundwater.

Pressures on Water Resources

Even though water is the most vital resource on Earth, a number of factors, both as a result of environmental and human impacts, have diminished its availability. In recent years, policies have been put in place to help manage, save and protect water. However, the lack of and contamination of water still stand as pertinent issues today.
One of the biggest contributors to the scarcity and pollution of water can be attributed to human mismanagement. A number of issues, from urban drifts, industrialization, population growth, pollution etc. all have made water a limited commodity.
The issues affecting water quality and quantity include:
  • Overpopulation in water depleted areas.
  • Urbanization of rural or suburban areas to cities.
  • Higher standards of living.
  • Pollutant run-off in bodies of water.
  • Global warming is contributing towards irregular water distribution.

What Forms is Water Available on Earth?

Water Distribution in the World
Fresh water accounts for merely a fraction of the world's water and it is highly difficult to extract since it confined mostly to a solid state, frozen in glaciers and ice caps. The rest of the Earth's water supply needs to be distilled, screened and purified in a much more intense fashion.
The natural cycle of water renewal works under 2 main principles:
  • Precipitation, which is when water vapor condenses in the air and falls due to gravity.
  • Evaporation, when water is vaporized at the surface and the molecules rise up into the atmosphere.

Understanding the hydrologic cycle can play an integral role in determining water availability. Another important aspect of the water cycle is transpiration, where water is vaporized from parts of plants. More than half of the water used by humans comes from groundwater found in soil and vegetation.
Fresh water can be found in:
  • Frozen Water: Depending on the average temperature each season, varying amounts of ice melt into streams from glaciers. Unfortunately, many are beginning to shrink, an indication of unprecedented global warming. Most of the fresh water available on Earth is contained in these frozen regions, however, nearly all of this water is not accessible since it is confined to the polar regions.
  • Lakes: Surface water refers to lakes, but more broadly, reservoirs, streams and rivers as well. Lakes accumulate water from rainfall as well as melted snow and ice from higher elevations. Lakes hold less than 1% of the Earth's fresh water supply, however they are accountable for more than 3/4 of all annually renewed water.
  • Rivers: The Earth is covered by rivers and streams, with nearly half of all the land surface serving as drainage areas for river basins. The flow of water in rivers varies, depending on the season as well as geographical and climatic region. Tropical areas receive more consistent, ample flows, whereas dry lands experience long periods of drought and only minimal flow following storms.
  • Wetlands and Marshes: Only about 6% of land surface consists of swamps, marshes and lagoons. However, they play an integral role in maintaining ecosystems as well as water resources. Unfortunately, a number of them have been damaged or destroyed due to deforestation, pollution and urbanization.
  • Underground Water Resources: As much as 96% of all liquid-state (unfrozen) freshwater lies below the Earth's surface. The water at this level serves a multitude of purposes, from supplying streams and wetlands, to maintaining stable Earth's surface, to serving most human water needs. If you look at groundwater as a resource, two things need to be considered: how much water there is in terms of volume, and whether or not it is renewable.
A number of aquifer systems are not renewable, meaning the volume of water does not stay constant and is usually a product of past climatic conditions. Most of the non-renewable systems are located in dry, arid regions, such as Africa, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Siberia.

Water Chemistry

Water Chemistry

The chemical formula for water is H2O, which means that one water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Hydrogen atoms are linked to one side of the oxygen atom. The side of the hydrogen atoms has a positive charge and the side of the oxygen atom has a negative charge. These opposite electrical charges attract each other giving water a kind of sticky property. These negative charges may also attract the positive charges of other water molecules. This attraction results in water molecules combine to make drops and and eventually bodies of water.
Water can exist in three different forms, namely, ice, water, and water vapor. In its pure form, water is odorless and tasteless, and it is a transparent liquid that has high solvency. Under normal circumstances, the boiling and freezing points of water are 100°C and 0°C respectively.

Water Cycle

Water Cycle
There is an abundant supply of water on Earth due to the fact that water is naturally recycled. The water cycle begins with the evaporation of water by heat from the sun. The evaporated water, or water vapor, rises into the sky and gathers as clouds. Due to low temperature in the sky, the water vapor condenses and falls onto the surface of the Earth as rain.

Water Use

The most important benefit of water is that it can prevent dehydration in living beings, and it is consumed by every person who is living on Earth. Additionally, it is used in agriculture for irrigating farmlands, and it is the source of power for the production of hydroelectricity. It can also prevent damage, injuries, and deaths when it is used to combat fires. Other than these uses, human beings also use water for washing, food processing, recreation, and other purposes.
  • Water Use: A web page that describes the various ways that water is used in the United States.
  • Uses of Water: Learn about the many uses of water in this web page. 
  • Industrial Water Use: Article that reveals how water is used in industrial activities.
  • Agricultural Water Use: Frequently asked questions about agricultural use of water in the United States.
  • Benefits of Water: A list of beneficial uses of water.

Water Quality

The physical, chemical and biological properties make up water quality and determine its use for specific purposes. Scientific experiments may have a broad term for good water but its precise purpose defines the quality usually. For example, the water that we drink may need to be of higher quality than the water we wash clothes with. Usually the search for quality water is conducted for human consumption, or for children to swim in, and as well as planting and tending to animals.

Drinking Water

Natural water in certain places may not be clean enough for human consumption, because it contains bacteria that can cause health problems such as diarrhea and even death. As such, it has to be purified and treated before it is distributed to the masses for consumption. In the past, most people boiled water from tap or other sources before they drank it. Nowadays, drinking water is available in several forms, including filtered water and bottled water.

Water Testing

Since water is a solvent, it can dissolve almost any substance. This also makes it very susceptible to contamination and pollution that can go undetected. Contaminants like Lead and E. Coli Bacteria are toxic and harmful for consumption. This is why drinking water needs to be tested at regular intervals. The Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA has set the current testing standards in the United States. These standards are the results of decades of policy changes and scientific research.

Water Purification

The water purification process involves the removal of undesirable contaminants which may be in the form of biological and chemical particles, suspended solids and gases from other contaminated sources. Purification means to convert wastewater to usable water. High quality conversion is completed for human consumption and other living needs. But it is also purified for many industrial needs, including pharmacology and medical fields. The biological process of purification involves activating sludge or slow sand filters; the physical process involves sedimentation, filtration, distillation; and the chemical process contains chlorination, flocculation use of electromagnetic radiation like the ultraviolet light.

Water Distribution

The distribution of water on Earth is uneven between saline sea water and freshwater. When seen from space the Earth appears blue because 71% of the Earth's water is the ocean which reflects and scatters the light. Due to this our planet is often referred to as the Blue Planet. As mentioned the largest percentage of water on Earth is saline water. The average salinity is around 35% but this figure varies between terrains. 98% of the oceanic water around the Earth is from saline closed lakes or marginal seas. The rest is the fresh water resource. In generic terms fresh water refers to less than 0.35% salinity than the oceanic waters.

Fresh Water

Fresh water is also called sweet water to signify the absence or low levels of salt in it. It has low levels of salt as well as other dissolved substances. This makes it very different from the saline or brackish seawater and easy for consumption. But freshwater has dissolved minerals in them as found in the Chalybeate Springs. Fresh water is naturally found all over the planet in the form of bodies like lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, glaciers, ice sheets, and as ground water through underground streams and aquifers.

Water Pollution

In the past few decades, oceans and water bodies around the world have become increasingly polluted. Industrial wastes, sewage, use of chemical products, oil spills, and other factors are causing natural water sources to become more and more contaminated. The increase in air pollution also contaminates the atmosphere and clouds, which in turn causes rain water to become more toxic. Governments around the world have imposed laws to reduce the disposal of harmful chemicals into water, and environmentalists are also making efforts to encourage people to keep water sources clean.

Water Conservation

With a limited amount of fresh water available, it is possible to use too much. Water shortages take place when water is used up before it can be replenished through the natural cycle. As such, governments are encouraging manufacturers to produce more water efficient products, such as low-flow shower heads, dual flush toilets, water-saving clothes washers, and others. Additionally, farms are using water-efficient equipment, and many new water-saving commercial devices are being introduced, such as the waterless car wash, infrared faucets, and others. Many households are also observing water-saving practices.

Water Recycling

Recycling is an important term when we talk of conserving the planet. And this extends beyond plastic, paper and metals. Water can be recycled as well. It is recycled for many purposes such as treating and turning waste water to reusable water for industries, agriculture, landscape irrigation, replenishing or recharging ground water basin. Also many household needs are met like like indoor plumbing. Water needed in homes may require higher treatment than for use in industries. Water recycling leads to both energy as well as financial conservation.