Visualizing the World’s Water

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This picture shows the size of a sphere that would contain all of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth.

The blue sphere hovering over the United States, reaching from Utah to Kansas, has a diameter of about 860 miles (or roughly 1,385 kilometers) , with a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (or roughly 1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers). The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes and rivers as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in all living matter.  This image serves as a stark reminder as to the how precious a resources water is.

earth water volume visualized

Credit: Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (©; Howard Perlman, USGS.
Data 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 (Oxford University Press, New York).

And how is that water distributed?

Only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water – 96.5% of it is in our oceans, and the rest is in saline groundwater and lakes.