How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?

(Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

More than 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, with an average depth of just over two miles (a fairly shallow depth when compared to the diameter of our planet).  But how much water is there really?  In this illustration, the sphere on the left represents Earth with all of the water removed.  The blue sphere to the right shows the approximate volume of all of Earth’s  water.  The tiny blue dot on the far right represents the available fresh water.

Another way to think of it is that if we represented the size of Earth with a basketball, all the water on the planet would fit into a ping pong ball and the available fresh water would be smaller than a popcorn  kernel.  Despite being such a water-rich planet, drinking water is one of  our most precious resources.

Sources include USGS and WHOI

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10 Responses to "How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?"

  1. Terra  May 11, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Let’s shit in that tiny sphere. It’s not like we need that one for anything.

  2. Daniel  May 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I see where the picture goes and i´ll probraly get rocks in the head to say this, but it´s good to remind that water is the most recyclable resourse we have! When water starts to get throwed out of the planet that´s when we have a problem

  3. Mary  January 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Daniel, you missed the point of the presentation entirely. The larger blue sphere is all the water – all of it; but we can’t drink that. Why? Because it’s too salty and/or too polluted. The little tiny blue sphere is all the water we can drink – that’s it. If we keep polluting our drinking water, that little amount will get smaller and smaller and smaller until it’s gone. Humans are capable of creating substances which pollute well past our ability to clean up the mess. So we need to be careful because we currently don’t have the ability to clean the water we’re polluting. Water is not the most recyclable resource we have anymore.


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