The distribution of water on, in, and above the Earth
The World's Water - Distribution of Earth's Water
The Earth is a watery place. But just how much water exists on, in, and above our planet? About 71 percent of the Earth's surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth's water. Water also exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in you and your dog.
This bar chart shows how almost all of Earth's water is saline and is found in the oceans. Of the small amount that is actually freshwater, only a relatively small portion is available to sustain human, plant, and animal life.
- In the first bar, notice how only 2.5% of Earth's water is freshwater - the amount needed for life to survive.
- The middle bar shows the breakdown of freshwater. Almost all of it is locked up in ice and in the ground. Only a little more than 1.2% of all freshwater is surface water, which serves most of life's needs.
- The right bar shows the breakdown of surface freshwater. Most of this water is locked up in ice, and another 20.9% is found in lakes. Rivers make up 0.49% of surface freshwater. Although rivers account for only a small amount of freshwater, this is where humans get a large portion of their water from.
► Find out more about Earth's water:
- How Much Water is There on Earth?
- Where is Earth's Water?
- The Water Cycle for Schools and Kids
- The Fundamentals of the Water Cycle
► More photos about Earth's water:
Source: Igor Shiklomanov's chapter "World fresh water resources" in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources. (Numbers are rounded).