Water Issues Part 1: Where is the World's Water? (A Geology Re-Release)

12.30.2021 - By PlanetGeo: The Geology Podcast

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A geology re-release of our talk about the worlds water and the issues we face.  Jesse and Chris are face to face recording this time which presented some challenges as you'll soon hear.  We had fun re-capping our water episode and we hope you have fun too as you hopefully learn a bit.

In this episode, Jesse and Chris talk about water.  That's right - water.  Where is the worlds water?  We begin by lumping all of the worlds water into 6 geological basins: oceans, glaciers, groundwater, lakes, atmosphere, and rivers.  We then assign relative percentages to each reservoir and then demonstrate how much water each would hold if all of the worlds water were scaled down to 5 gallons (19 Liters).

What comes to light is that less than 1% of all the worlds water is useable for human consumption - less than a half of a cup on a 5 gallon scale!  That "1/2 cup of water" is enough to keep 9 billion people alive, but it is not evenly distributed over the planet.

We use the Great Lakes in the Mid-West United States to illustrate the "haves and have nots".  The Great Lakes contain 21% of all the standing fresh surface water on Earth.  Despite having this incredible amount of water, the Great Lakes Basin is already dealing with water issues.  Our groundwater is being depleted and our standing water is being diverted.

We use the Chicago River diversion to illustrate some of the issues and concerns about moving Great Lakes water out of the Basin.  We also use Waukesha, Wisconsin as an example of an area that has a poor groundwater source but has been granted access to Great Lakes water to avert their needs.

Although we talk a lot about the Great Lakes region in this episode, the issues here are an analogy for the entire planet.  World population might reach 9 billion in 20 years.  Fresh water is finite and we need to be aware of the issues we will face - and are already facing while we still have time!

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