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Engineering LibreTexts

6: Physical Resources: Water, Pollution, and Minerals

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    • 6.1: Physical Resources: Water, Pollution, and Minerals - Chapter Introduction
      Water, air, and food are the most important natural resources to people. Humans can live only a few minutes without oxygen, about a week without water, and about a month without food. Water also is essential for our oxygen and food supply. Plants, which require water to survive, provide oxygen through photosynthesis and form the base of our food supply. Plants grow in soil, which forms by weathering reactions between water and rock.
    • 6.2: Water Cycle and Fresh Water Supply
      Water is the only substance that occurs naturally on earth in three forms: solid, liquid and gas. It is distributed in various locations, called water reservoirs. The oceans are by far the largest of the reservoirs with about 97% of all water but that water is too saline for most human uses (see Figure Earth's Water Reservoirs).
    • 6.3: Case Study: The Aral Sea - Going, Going, Gone
      The Aral Sea is a lake located east of the Caspian Sea between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in central Asia (see Figure Map of Aral Sea Area). This area is part of the Turkestan desert, which is the fourth largest desert in the world; it is produced from a rain shadow effect by Afghanistan's high mountains to the south. Due to the arid and seasonally hot climate there is extensive evaporation and limited surface waters in general.
    • 6.4: Water Pollution
      The Module Water Cycle and Fresh Water Supply described one aspect of the global water crisis, the water shortages that afflict many arid and densely populated areas. The global water crisis also involves water pollution, because to be useful for drinking and irrigation, water must not be polluted beyond certain thresholds.
    • 6.5: Case Study: The Love Canal Disaster
      One of the most famous and important examples of groundwater pollution in the U.S. is the Love Canal tragedy in Niagara Falls, New York. It is important because the pollution disaster at Love Canal, along with similar pollution calamities at that time (Times Beach, Missouri and Valley of Drums, Kentucky), helped to create Superfund, a federal program instituted in 1980 and designed to identify and clean up the worst of the hazardous chemical waste sites in the U.S.
    • 6.6: Mineral Resources: Formation, Mining, Environmental Impact
      Mineral resources are essential to our modern industrial society and they are used everywhere. For example, at breakfast you drink some juice in a glass (made from melted quartz sand), eat from a ceramic plate (created from clay minerals heated at high temperatures), sprinkle salt (halite) on your eggs, use steel utensils (from iron ore and other minerals), read a magazine (coated with up to 50% kaolinite clay to give the glossy look), and answer your cellphone (containing over 40 different mine
    • 6.7: Case Study: Gold: Worth its Weight?
      Gold is a symbol of wealth, prestige, and royalty that has attracted and fascinated people for many thousands of years. Gold is considered by many to be the most desirable precious metal because it has been sought after for coins, jewelry, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history. Historically its value was used as a currency standard (the gold standard) although not anymore.