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8.3: Global Water Distribution Use

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  • Most of the water on the planet is in oceans and unavailable for human consumption due to its high salinity (Figure\(\PageIndex{1}\)).

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Graphical representation of available water:

    Of all the water in the world, only about 0.64% is fresh water that is available for consumption (the other fresh water is locked up in ice). Of this available fresh water, 98.4% is found as groundwater below the surface of the Earth and only 1.4% is surface water in rivers and lakes.

    The largest percentage of water withdrawn in the US goes to thermoelectric cooling (Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\)). In some countries, such as Egypt, irrigation accounts for over 70% of water withdrawn. Irrigation is water that is applied by a water system to sustain plant growth. Irrigation also includes water that is used for frost protection, application of chemicals, weed control, field preparation, crop cooling, harvesting, dust suppression, and leaching salts from the root zone.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Estimated 2010 water withdrawals. Irrigation and thermoelectric power usages account for most water withdrawals. More water use terminology can be found at: