Happy end of December everyone! We survived the holidays—almost! As I sit here and look out to my backyard, I am seeing blue skies and sunshine! A big change from the last few days. So, what do you say we talk about rain?!? Actually, more like water!

Ahhh, water! Cool on a hot summer day, warm when it is cold out, quenching when we are thirsty, perfect to play in when it is hot and great to skate on when it’s frozen. Water is what makes up our world, it is what sustains life, and it is a backbone for our environment. And it’s not renewable. Yes, it is recyclable and readily is, but it is NOT renewable.

So, the question to you is if it’s not a renewable resource, is it an infinitive resource? The answer to that is also NO! Just a thought, as you drink you tall, cold glass of water or heat up your water for tea, we are drinking the same water that dinosaurs drank—and peed!!! EWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As odd as that sounds, it’s true! The water that allowed life to be created on Earth is the same water we have today. The difference? Not much, except now we know how to and are very good at polluting what we do have!

 

Okay, I know, I’m a downer, but it is true. This is going to be a three part blog post. In part one, we will look at how much water we really have. That will involve pictures and maybe a video. In part two, we are going to discuss the actual water cycle, how it works and how we are actually drinking dinosaur pee! This will involve lots of pictures, I promise. Finally, in part three, we will discuss ways to clean water, preserve our water and maybe even how we can use some of the unusable water. Part three, while not as shocking as part one, will be the most fun because I think we will clean an oil spill with water and look at how our environment is our best resource for cleaning our water.

 

Okay, so now that we know our road map, let’s get going!!

 

As I said previously, water is neither renewable nor infinitive. It is, however, reusable! Yeah! But really, how much do we actually have? I mean, the world is covered in water, after all! We have five oceans, millions of lakes, lots and lots of them like the Great Lakes in the U.S. and Lake Victoria in Africa. We have millions of streams, rivers, gulfs, sounds, ponds, and swamps. We have total continents that are covered in ice.

 

So, if we have so much water, why do we have such a shortage? Well, the answer is far too difficult to answer in a few sentences, unfortunately. A few of the reasons are drought, pollution, salt water, etc. It may be easier to start with understanding how much water we really have and how much we can use.

 

I took a hydrology class where the teacher used an inflatable Earth that she tossed to a student, then recorded the where the students right thumb landed on the globe. The student then tossed it to another and so on until the whole class had touched the ball. The percentage of how many thumbs had landed on water was overwhelming! I think we call all agree that water far outweighs land on Earth. In fact, our Earth is covered in approximately 70% water! WOW!!! Hmmm…all that water to sail on….hmmmmm…oh, sorry, I digress! Oh, and as you have seen in previous posts, that is my awesome assisgant Dawson holding the globe. Doesn't he look thrilled?

Back to our demonstration. After that, the instructor proceeded with the following demo. I later found similar ones online, and so I have adopted these for our demo today!!! (Has anyone noticed I like exclamation marks?)

So, what will we need? I gathered the following supplies: a container that I could put one liter in, several glasses, food coloring, eye droppers, and of course, water! As a side note, you can do this with tap water, however, since I have two rain barrels and my plants need some watering, I’m going to use rain water!

****Note—you are about to see food coloring in the water—I did not feed my plants! I realized that you couldn’t really see the water without the color, so I added the color!!!

Oh, and yeah, I know it's sideways. I just wanted to see if the water would pour out. Hmmm...it didn't...so much for gravity, eh???

Anyway, here we go…

 

I have a beaker of 1000 ml which is colored blue. (For anyone that is counting, this equals 1 liter!) This liter represents 100% of the water we have on/in Earth.

30 ml or 3% was pulled out of our “water” to represent fresh water. The rest of the water, that 97%, is salt water. Now, our oceans are very important—they are a magnificent ecosystem, act as a carbon sequestering body (see “The Wheels Made of Carbon…” post on this blog!), and act as a major factor in weather generation, not to mention they give us some awesome seafood, but they are inundated with salt! Actually, some of the most awesome lakes in our world are salt water! It is possible to pull the salt out of the water, but that’s an expensive and difficult endeavor. So, as a use for the human race? Salt water is out until we come up with a better solution (no pun intended, really!) for desalination!

So, back to the 3%. Of that 30 ml, 24 ml, or about 80% of our fresh water resides in ice. Now, this ice could be fresh or brackish, but regardless, it is virtually unusable unless that water melts, which would be really bad. I think we can all agree on that!

So that really leaves us with 6 ml, or 20% water that is fresh water (.6% of the total water on Earth). Okay, personally, that really stinks if you ask me. But, we need to break this very small number down even further. One quarter of that .6% is surface water and three quarters is found in groundwater.

Let me stop there for just a moment and talk about those two for just a moment. Surface water is water you find on the surface. Okay, got it, you’re saying, “oh duh, Jacki!” However, you have to remember that surface water has a lot of names. Lakes, streams, rivers, bogs, wetlands, ponds. Surface water can be supplied by precipitation which came from evaporation (we’ll get into that in the next post) or it can come from aquifers or underground water chambers. Springs are a good example. A spring is a point of eruption for an underwater ground water source.

Now, ground water is a little more difficult. Think about oil. There can be pockets of oil or it can be integrated into sands or shale. They came up with this practice of fracking which flushes the oil to the surface. With water, it is a little more difficult. You can dig wells, but in some cases, there is no “containment” area for the water. It just flows through rocks and along cracks in the Earth. This water is great for vegetation but virtually useless to us as a source for drinking water.

<Okay, I couldn't find a picture of ground water...you can use your imagination, right?>

So, now that we understand this, what do we really have? Well, we have this.

1 drop. It equals to about .003% of all the water on Earth. I have no clue how much of that is polluted but I can tell you this is not a lot of water. 1 drop.

 

So, we went from 100% to .003%. It’s kind of shocking, not to mention scary. There are areas of our country as well as many countries that simply do not have water sources. As I said before, the causes are many and varied, but the answer really leaves us with the question, now what? Well, the next post will be about the water cycle and then we will talk about how to clean and keep clean what we still have.

Until then, though, enjoy drinking dinosaur water and have a great start to the New Year!

 

Swimmingly yours,

Jacki 

 

P.S. There are some really awesome sites on water out there. Here is where I got my pictures at...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/Water_drop_on_a_leaf.jpg

 

 

 
 

 

Educational Blogger

About the Educational Blogger

Emma Merlo studied theater and music at Austin College for four years, and toured nationally with the Missoula Children’s Theater for two years.  She has taught kids all over the US from age 2 to age 18. She loves science education and especially space!