What is the Hydrosphere? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Hydrosphere
  • 1:31 How Water Connects
  • 3:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Laura Nappi
Expert Contributor
Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Have you ever wondered how much water is on Earth? In this lesson, we will trace how water travels around Earth. You will learn the definition of a hydrosphere and take a quiz to test your knowledge.

Definition of the Hydrosphere

If you look at Earth from outer space, one thing is obvious: Earth is blue. Water is everywhere. Approximately 71% of Earth is covered in water. Water is found in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans. Water is stored underground as groundwater. Some water is trapped in ice. Water can even be found in our atmosphere in the form of water vapor. All of the water found on Earth is called a hydrosphere .

How much water do you think exists on Earth? It is difficult to fathom how much water is found on our planet. Imagine gathering all the water in the atmosphere, ocean, rivers, streams, groundwater, and trapped in ice. If you were to place all of this water into a giant box, it would be approximately 692 miles long, 692 miles wide, and 692 miles tall.

To put this in perspective, 692 miles is about the distance from New York City to Charleston in South Carolina. This box would hold a tremendous volume of water; 332.5 million cubic miles in size to be exact. Just 1 cubic mile of water is equal to about 1 trillion gallons of water. Now, that is a lot of water! Of this water, approximately 97% of all water on Earth is ocean salt water. The remaining 3% of water is freshwater found in ice, rivers, and underground, with the majority of Earth's freshwater stored in ice. Very little freshwater is available for human purposes like drinking water and irrigation.

How Water Connects in the Hydrosphere

All of the water on Earth is connected. Water does not stay in one place, it travels. Water constantly moves. This is called a hydrologic cycle, also known as the water cycle. There are different stages the water travels through as it moves through the water cycle. Let's trace the journey of a water droplet as it travels around Earth. Imagine this water droplet sitting in the ocean. The sun is the driving force behind the entire water cycle. The sun beats on the water droplet causing it to warm up and evaporate. When the water rises up in the atmosphere in the form of water vapor, it is called evaporation. The water droplet eventually condensates, helping to form a cloud. This stage of the water cycle is called condensation.

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Additional Activities

Hydrologic Cycle

The hydrologic cycle shows the movement of water on Earth. It takes into account all of the water and where it goes in any given moment. Your students will complete a diagram of the hydrologic cycle.


  • clear plastic shoe box
  • water
  • heat lamp
  • dirt
  • plastic plants


1. Start by explaining to your students that they are going to create a small version of the hydrologic cycle in a plastic shoe box.

2. Tell your students to fill half of the shoe box with dirt and insert the plastic plants into the dirt.

3. Next, have them to add water to the other side of the shoe box until the shoe box is half full of water.

4. The lid should be replaced on the shoe box

5. Have your students position the heat lamp so that it shines through the side of the plastic shoe box.

6. Once the water begins to evaporate, condensate and drip back into the water in the bottom of the shoe box, then have the students to explain what they are seeing in the context of the hydrologic cycle. Each step of the process should be explained using scientific terms.

7. Each group of students should display their hydrologic cycles on the counters around the room with their explanations in front of the displays.

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