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Fresh water, a precious and scarce resouce

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POSTED: August 23, 2007 5:03 a.m.
The science of hydrology tells us the freshwater we humans and all animals and plants survive on has been in existence since the formation of our planet. That means the water we drink today is the same water that dinosaurs drank. Interesting?
Let us take a look at the timeframe in which we humans have been in charge of the planet Earth. In the past 4.5 billion years Earth has been around, mankind is not the only life form to have dominated the planet. The study of the Earth’s geology gives us a good picture of life forms of the past and what it was like at times. That is a whole other story; but if we look at these billions of years as a 24-hour clock, mankind has been at the top for less than one second — not that long in the big picture of things.
Just how much water do we have on the Earth? If we smoothed out the Earth’s crust by filling in the ocean floor with the dry land of the continents, the planet’s entire surface would be covered by 8,800 feet of seawater. If all the seawater evaporated into space, the Earth would be covered in more than 40  feet of salt and minerals.
Our oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 96.5 percent of its water. Saline or brackish groundwater and saltwater lakes make up another one percent. That’s a total of 97.5 percent, which leaves us with only 2.5 percent of the planet’s water being fresh; and that is not all drinkable water. Of this 2.5 percent, 70 percent is frozen in glaciers, permanent snow cover, ice and permafrost.
The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have a majority of the frozen freshwater. A little more than 29 percent of freshwater is underground, and most of that is in deep, hard to reach aquifers.
All in all, a little more than 99 percent of the earth’s freshwater is out of reach for human use. The fortune of those living along the coast of Georgia is that, from an engineering standpoint, the Floridan Aquifer is easy to tap into.
That’s a lot of numbers, but when you get right down to the bottom line about drinking water, less than one percent of the earth’s freshwater is available to its inhabitants. So, the next time you use water, just remember how little of it we really have. If we do not live in harmony with nature, we will not live very long.

Odom is a founding member and board member of the Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, GA/EPD water-quality monitoring certified. He is an avid outdoorsman, a certified Coastal Georgia master naturalist and has served as a Boy Scout leader for the past 15 years in Liberty County.
 

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