How much natural water is there?

Earth is estimated to hold about 1,460,000,000 cubic kilometers of water. The breakdown of where all that water resides is estimated as follows:

  • Oceans (saline) 1,419,120,000 cubic kilometers
  • Ice caps and glaciers (fresh) 31,244,000 cubic kilometers
  • Groundwater (fresh and saline) 8,906,000 cubic kilometers
  • Streams and lakes (fresh) 132,860 cubic kilometers
  • Lakes (saline) 116,800 cubic kilometers
  • Other--soil, atmosphere, biosphere (fresh) 480,340 cubic kilometers

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How much water is used by people in the United States?

Since 1950, the USGS has collected and analyzed water-use data for the United States and its Territories . That data is revised every 5 years. As of 2015, the United States uses 322 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/day). The three largest water-use categories were irrigation (118 Bgal/day), thermoelectric power (133 Bgal/day), and public...

What is the Earth's "water cycle?"

The water cycle , also known as the hydrologic cycle, describes the continuous movement of water as it makes a circuit from the oceans to the atmosphere to the Earth and on again. Most of Earth's water is in the oceans. The sun, which drives the water cycle, heats water in the oceans. Some of it evaporates as vapor into the air. Rising vapor cools...

Is saline water used for anything?

In the U.S., about 13 percent of all water used is saline water . But saline water can only be used for certain purposes. The main use is for thermoelectric power-plant cooling. About 5 percent of water used for industrial purposes is saline, and about 53 percent of all water used for mining purposes is saline. Saline water can be desalinated for...

How do we benefit from USGS streamgages?

Information on the flow of rivers is a vital national asset that safeguards lives, protects property, and ensures adequate water supplies for the future. The USGS is the federal agency responsible for operating a network of about 7,000 streamgages nationwide. Data from this network are used by water managers, emergency responders, utilities,...
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Date published: December 14, 2016

How Much Water Do We Use?

The USGS National Water-Use Science project has documented 60 years of water-use from 1950 to 2010 in an interactive map.  Choose a year and pick a category to see how much water your state uses. 

Attribution: Water Resources
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All water on Earth in a sphere, placed over a "dry" globe
July 16, 2019

All of Earth's water in a single sphere!

This image shows blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth's water in comparison to the size of the Earth. Are you surprised that these water spheres look so small? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth. These images attempt to show three dimensions, so each sphere represents "volume." They show that in comparison to the volume of the globe,

August 30, 2012

PubTalk 8/2012 — Global Food Security in the 21st Century

--the increasing need for food production, cropland areas, and agricultural water

by Prasad Thenkabail, Research Geographer

  • Worldwide demand for food will require more than one billion hectares of new cropland to feed 9 billion plus people by 2050
  • Presently, of all the water used by humans over 70% goes towards
A glass sphere showing a lake through it

Where is Earth's water?

Where is Earth's Water?