Login

The Distribution of Water on Earth

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:06 The Blue Planet
  • 1:06 How Water Is Distributed
  • 3:23 Lesson Summary
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Water covers most of Earth but in a variety of forms. In this video lesson you will learn about how water is distributed on Earth, though you may be surprised to find out just how little of it we can access!

The Blue Planet

Earth is known as the 'blue planet' because it is covered with water and from space it is seen as bright blue. Water occurs in many forms on Earth, and it is naturally present in all three phases of matter: liquid water (oceans, lakes and streams), solid (ice caps and glaciers) and gas (water vapor in the atmosphere).

Water on Earth is very important because it is what allows life to exist. Without water, Earth would be dry and desolate, and you wouldn't be here! How water moves through the water cycle, which is the natural cycling of water through places and phases on Earth, affects weather, land features, global temperatures and drinking water supplies.

Water is an important resource to us because we use it for a variety of everyday things - drinking water, cooking food, washing clothes and power production, just to name a few. However, the amount of water available for our use is surprisingly small compared with all the water that is present on Earth.

How Water Is Distributed

When you look at an image of Earth, it's easy to understand that 70% of its surface is covered with water. This is because all that blue you see is water in the oceans - about 97% of all the water on Earth! Ocean water is very salty, much too salty for us to drink, so in the oceans it stays.

That leaves only about 3% for all other water on Earth, which is all freshwater. But even most of that is not available to us! Of that 3%, 2/3 of it (so about 68% of all the freshwater, which is about 2% of all the total water on Earth) is frozen in ice caps and glaciers. While this may sound like an untapped resource, it's actually beneficial to us that this water is frozen where it is because it helps regulate sea levels and global temperatures on Earth.

So we still have 1% of all the water on Earth left to distribute. About 30% of Earth's freshwater (approximately 0.6% of all water on Earth) is found as groundwater. This is one resource we do take advantage of - it's where we get much of our water for drinking and irrigating agricultural crops.

Surface water, which is all the lakes, rivers and streams on Earth, makes up about 0.3% of all the freshwater (about 0.009% of all water on Earth). Think about all the large rivers we have on our planet, like the Nile, the Amazon, the Colorado and the Mississippi. All of these rivers and all of their streams don't even add up to 1% of Earth's total water! And what's even more amazing is that of all the surface water, rivers make up a measly 2%. Most surface water is found in lakes, which constitute more than 85% of all surface water.

There is even more water to be accounted for, such as soil moisture, which is water that is in the ground but above groundwater, and water vapor in the atmosphere. All of this other water, including all those big clouds you see in the sky, makes up less than 1% of all the freshwater on Earth.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
1
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
5
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
10
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
20
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
50
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
100
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
200
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
300
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge! Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
500
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
1K
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge. Go to Next Lesson Take Quiz
20
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
50
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
100
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
250
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
500
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
1K
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.
Support