Water—Lifeblood of the Planet
COLORLESS, odorless, tasteless, and calorie free, water is vital to all life on earth. No human, animal, or plant can live without it. From elephant to microbe, water is essential; and there is no substitute. Each of the more than five billion people on earth needs to consume, in liquids and food, about two and a half quarts [2.5 liters] of water every day to keep healthy. No water, no life.
Without water, it is impossible to grow crops or to raise livestock. No water, no food—no food, no life.
Fortunately, there is plenty of water. When photographed from outer space, our beautiful blue planet looks as though it should be called Water, not Earth. Indeed, if the world’s water evenly covered the surface of the planet, it would form a global ocean 1.5 miles [2.5 km] deep. All of the earth’s land surfaces could fit into the Pacific Ocean, with room to spare.
Of course, most of the earth’s water is in the seas, and seawater is salty. If a person drank only seawater, he or she would soon perish of thirst and dehydration while the body tried to flush out the excess salt. Seawater is not a good choice for agriculture or industry either—it kills most crops and quickly rusts most machinery. So, for the most part, humans can use seawater only if they remove the salt, and that is an expensive process.
A mere 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, not salty. Almost all of that fresh water—about 99 percent of it—is locked up in glaciers and ice caps or is deep underground. Only 1 percent is readily accessible to humankind.
One percent does not sound like much. Are we likely to run short of fresh water? Probably not. States the magazine People & the Planet: “Even this [1 percent], if evenly distributed around the world and rationally used, would be enough to sustain twice or three times the world’s current population.”
Basically, the total amount of water on earth neither increases nor decreases. Science World states: “The water you use today may have once quenched the thirst of a dinosaur. That’s because all the water we have on Earth now is all we’ve ever had—or will ever have.”
This is because the water in and around the world endlessly circulates—from the oceans to the atmosphere, to the land, into the rivers, and back to the oceans again. It is as the wise man wrote long ago: “All streams run into the sea, yet the sea never overflows; back to the place from which the streams ran they return to run again.”—Ecclesiastes 1:7, New English Bible.
Despite the abundance of fresh water on the earth, however, many regions are in crisis. The following articles look at the problems and the prospects for resolving them.
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