WTF Fun Fact 13683 – 1% of Earth’s Water

only 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable. Yes, in a world covered by 71% water, the amount we can actually use to quench our thirst, cook, or bathe barely scratches the surface. Here’s why that’s the case and why it matters.

Earth’s Water: A Vast Ocean of Undrinkable Drops

Most of Earth’s water, about 97.5%, is saltwater, found in oceans and seas. It’s not fit for drinking, farming, or most industrial uses without costly desalination processes. The remaining 2.5% is freshwater, but here’s the catch: much of it is locked away in glaciers, ice caps, and deep underground aquifers. This leaves a tiny sliver, roughly 1%, that’s readily accessible for human use and found in rivers, lakes, and shallow underground sources.

The Precious 1% of Earth’s Water

This 1% of drinkable water supports all of humanity’s needs – from drinking to agriculture to industry. It’s a finite resource that’s under increasing pressure from population growth, pollution, and climate change. The balance between water availability and demand is delicate, and in many parts of the world, this balance is already tipping dangerously.

The Ripple Effect of Scarcity

Water scarcity affects more than just the ability to turn on a tap and get clean water. It has profound implications for food security, as agriculture consumes a significant portion of the world’s freshwater supply. In addition, it impacts health, as poor water quality and access contribute to diseases. It also influences economic development, energy production, and the health of ecosystems that depend on freshwater habitats.

Navigating the Drought

The challenge of managing this precious 1% demands innovative solutions and sustainable practices. Water conservation, efficient usage, pollution control, and investment in infrastructure to treat and recycle wastewater are critical. On a larger scale, addressing climate change and protecting water sources are essential steps to ensure that this 1% can meet the needs of a growing global population.

Understanding that only 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable puts into perspective the need for responsible water use and management. It highlights the importance of every drop and the role everyone has in protecting this vital resource. As we move forward, the decisions we make about water will shape the future of our planet and the survival of the generations to come.

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Source: “Earth’s Fresh Water” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 13022 – The World’s Fresh Water

Seventy-one percent of the Earth is covered in water, but that doesn’t mean we can use it all. But what percent of the world’s water is fresh (and therefore useable for humans to ingest)? Just 2.55 – and much of that is trapped in glaciers. Only 0.007% is available to us for use. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Interestingly, that’s roughly the same amount of freshwater that has always existed on Earth.

The world’s freshwater

Water is a valuable resource. If you’ve ever been without fresh water, even for a short time, you probably know exactly how panic-inducing a lack of fresh water can be. But for many people, fresh water is something we’ve always had and never really questioned. Those are the lucky minority.

It’s a bit startling to realize that the Earth’s freshwater resources have been around for hundreds of millions of years. What we drink has been recycled many, many times, whether it’s via the atmosphere or through our drinking water cups (and we’ll leave you to figure out how that works and then appreciate your local water treatment facility on your own).

Because we have very limited means of creating potable water out of saltwater through desalinization technology, it’s very hard to make enough new freshwater to sustain more humans. And that’s bad news when you think about how much water goes into things we enjoy – NatGeo says “the average hamburger takes 2,400 liters, or 630 gallons, of water to produce.

Fresh water keeps us alive

An increasingly large human population means we will need more water for hygiene, cooking, and drinking.

According to National Geographic (cited below): “Water scarcity is an abstract concept to many and a stark reality for others. It is the result of myriad environmental, political, economic, and social forces.” It has always been this way – people have fought wars over access to freshwater supplies for thousands of years.

“Due to geography, climate, engineering, regulation, and competition for resources, some regions seem relatively flush with freshwater, while others face drought and debilitating pollution. In much of the developing world, clean water is either hard to come by or a commodity that requires laborious work or significant currency to obtain,” they note.

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Source: “Freshwater Crisis” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12740 – The Master Switch of Life

The Master Switch of Life is a phrase coined by Swedish researcher Per Scholander in the 1960s.

His research took place in the U.S. the United States where he studied just how being underwater would affect humans. He had already studied Weddell seals and found that the creatures seemed to gain more oxygen the longer they were underwater.

The water tank trials

To see if the effect might be the same in humans, he put volunteers in a water tank and monitored their heart rates as they dove to the bottom of the tank. Immediately, the volunteers’ heart rates decreased.

Then he asked them to do some exercise at the bottom of the tank to try and raise their heart rates but to no avail. Being underwater continued to lower everyone’s heart rate, meaning they also needed less oxygen (the opposite of what happens on land when we exercise). In addition, when the volunteers were underwater, their blood began flowing away from limbs and towards vital organs (which also happens in seals).

When blood flows to the heart and brain, they stay oxygenated longer, meaning we need less overall oxygen for our bodies to continue to function.

The mystery of water

That’s when he wondered why water has such an unexpected effect on us.

It turns out that the more we dive, the more blood can penetrate the cell walls of our organs to counteract external pressure.

And here’s the really cool part, according to TED:

“Scholander found that a person need submerge only his face in water to activate these life-lengthening (and lifesaving) reflexes. Other researchers tried sticking a hand or a leg in the water in an attempt to trigger the reflex, but to no avail. One researcher even put volunteers into a compression chamber to see if pressure alone would trigger a similar diving reflex. No dice. Only water could trigger these reflexes, and the water had to be cooler than the surrounding air.”

A splash of cold water

All we need to do is splash some cold water on our faces to flip what he called this “Master Switch of Life.” Cool water basically makes us more amphibious and produces a physical change in our heart rates. That certainly explains why cold water feels so refreshing!

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Source: “Your body’s amazing reaction to water” — TED Ideas

WTF Fun Fact 12698 – The Universe’s Oldest Water

We’re just going to go ahead and admit something to you. When we read about space, the numbers are just too enormous to make much of an impression on us. 140 trillion of anything is just…too big to really imagine, you know?

But when it comes to astronomy, those are the numbers we’re dealing with. Space is just so…vast.

Anyway, that’s all to say that if you look at this fun fact and think “uh, ok, sure,” then you’re not alone.

And the fun fact is that in a galaxy far, far away:

1. Astronomers recently detected a mass of water vapor 12 billion light-years away.
2. That means it took the light from it 12 billion years to reach the earth so we could sense it would our instruments.
3. The cloud of water vapor is located around a quasar, which is a supermassive black hole.
4. There’s not just a little bit of water there, there’s enough water to fill Earth’s oceans 140 trillion (with a T) times.
5. The math tells us that if the cloud is 12 billion years old, then water has been present in the universe much longer than we had imagined.
6. By our calculations, the water was present roughly 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang (aka the beginning of the universe).
7. According to study co-author Alberto Bolatto of the University of Maryland: “This discovery pushes the detection of water one billion years closer to the Big Bang than any previous find.”

Sometimes the universe requires a 7-part fun fact. What can we say?

And if you’re the kind of person who likes to know the details, the quasar the team was studying when they found the water vapor cloud is called APM 08279+5255 and it houses a black hole 20 billion times larger than the sun.

Quasars are the brightest and more powerful objects in the universe, so this one produces 1 quadrillion times the energy of our sun.

Confirmation of the discovery occurred using two different telescopes to ensure the calculations were correct – one was in Hawaii and the other in California.

And while this is a cool find, it doesn’t really change anything about our understanding of how the universe developed since scientists have long assumed that water vapor was probably present very early in the creation of the universe. It was the size of the vapor cloud that surprised astronomers.

So if you feel like your problems are big, just remember that in the grand scheme of things, everything we deal with is really quite small (not unimportant, just small). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Astronomers Find Largest, Oldest Mass of Water in Universe” —

WTF Fun Fact 12436 – Ocean Depths

There’s a lot we don’t know about the ocean because humans simply can’t get to the very bottom. In fact, we don’t even know where the deepest spot on the planet lies because we’ve only mapped about 10% of the ocean floor in high resolution.

What we do know is that among the areas we’ve measured, the average depth of the ocean is 12,080 feet. For those who prefer different units of measure, that’s 3,682 meters, or 3.7 kilometers, or 2.3 miles – or, you know, 8 Empire State Buildings.

These measurements are taken from data gathered in 2010 and only provide an estimate.

Did you know there are different names for deep ocean zones?
– Littoral zone (from the shore to about 200 feet deep) tends to be shallow and has no formal definition.
– Bathyal (3,300 to 13,100 ft) 
– Abyssal (10,000 and 20,000 ft)
– Hadal zone (20,000 to 36,000 ft): This is the deepest part of the ocean, and you have to make your way into trenches created by tectonic plate shifts in order to reach them.

The ocean’s deepest known point is Challenger Deep, in the western Pacific’s Mariana Trench. It’s deeper than Mt. Everest is tall. – WTF fun facts 

Source: “How deep is the ocean?” — Natural History Museum