General information

The Earth’s Water Supply

Where is Earth's water?

Of all the water on Earth, only a small percentage is drinkable, fresh water.

One estimate of global water distribution. (Percentages are rounded, so will not add to 100)

Water Source Percent of fresh water Percent of total water
Oceans, seas & bays 96.5
Ice caps, glaciers & permanent snow 68.7 1.74
Groundwater 1.69
    fresh 30.1 0.76
    saline 0.93
Soil moisture 0.05 0.001
Ground ice and permafrost 0.86 0.022
Lakes 0.013
    fresh 0.26 0.007
    saline 0.006
Atmosphere 0.04 0.001
Swamp water 0.03 0.0008
Rivers 0.006 0.0002
Biological water 0.003 0.0001

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)


Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.

Referring Pages