Countdown to Earth Day

April 12, 2004

Photo credit: Image Copyrighted by & found at Egyptian Picture Gallery.

Earth literally is the water planet. More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by a layer of water of varying thickness. Indeed, all life depends on water. However, in spite of all this abundance, unless you are an ocean-dweller your supply of clean, accessible water is really very limited.

Why is earth called the water planet?

Where is all the water in the world?

Are all those part of the water cycle?

Will the earth ever get more water?

Nearly 3/4 of the earth's surface is water. About 97 % is saltwater. Only 3 % is freshwater: rivers, ponds, lakes, icecaps, glaciers, clouds, or stored below the earth's surface as groundwater.



Icecaps/ glaciers




Freshwater lakes 


Inland seas/salt lakes






Yes! With so much water on this planet, it is often mistakenly taken for granted as a limitless resource. However, the amount of freshwater is very limited: groundwater, freshwater lakes & rivers, or only 0.6371% of all available water!

No! Scientists have shown that all the water we will ever have is on the earth right now. Water for humans and wildlife depends largely on how we maintain its quality. Human beings have a responsibility to conserve water, use it wisely, and protect its quality.

Source: Groundwater: Illinois' Buried Treasure Education Activity Guide.30,
"How Wet is Wet?" Aquatic Project Wild, p 7-9.

Given how rare fresh water is, we ought to cherish and protect it. In reality, though, we aren’t doing a very good job. According to the U.S. EPA and the Clean Water Network, more than 40% of U.S. rivers, lakes and estuaries are still too polluted to be safe for fishing and swimming. And around the world, the situation is much, much worse.

Next time you turn on the tap, reflect a moment on where that water comes from and how lucky you are to have it.

Learn more about the history of the Clean Water Act at:

Astound your friends at your next party with amazing water facts, to be found at the National Park Service's page for Wild and Scenic Rivers:

Learn more about what you can do to preserve and protect the water that we all need to live by visiting the web page of the Clean Water Network: