About Water

1. Where did water first come from?

Water molecules were formed from hydrogen and oxygen atoms many, many years ago. The same water that formed during the creation of the earth is the same water on earth today – no more will ever be added.

2. Why is earth referred to as the water planet?

Water or glaciers cover around 80% of the earth. Only 3% of the water on earth is freshwater, meaning it contains no salt. Most of the water found on earth is frozen in glaciers at the north and south poles. Only about 1% of the water on earth is freshwater for our use.

3. With so many of us using water, when will we run out?

Every day, we use about 700 billion gallons of clean drinking water here in the United States. That’s about 170 gallons per person each day. But as long as water can complete the water (or hydrologic) cycle, the water will be replaced. However, too much demand can cause a shortage on the supply of safe drinking water.

The water cycle constantly moves water from the earth to the clouds and back again. The sun draws the water to the clouds through evaporation, and water falls back to earth by precipitation.

Every day, the sun evaporates trillions of gallons of water. Every second, 16 million tons of water falls to the earth. Wow!

4. How does the rainwater or snow melt get into aquifers?

Precipitation infiltrates or moves downward through the soil and travels until it finds an opening. Snow could melt on a mountain top, run down the side of the mountain, and find a creek. It then moves downward through the soil and travels until it reaches the surface again in a river or ocean and then it’s evaporated into the atmosphere. That is a complete cycle for a water drop.

Over a 100 year period, a water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, 2 weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere.

5. How long could we live without water?

Only a few days without water. Our bodies store food, but not water. Every day, people eliminate about 3/4 of a gallon of water which must be replaced.

We need about 80 ounces of water per day, but not all of it comes from drinking fluids. Fruits and vegetables are 80 – 90% water. Even fried chicken and pizza are 50% water. A regular hamburger contains about 4 ounces of water.

People are mostly water – men are 70% water and women are 60% water. Blood is 83% water. Even our bones are made of 25%.

6. What can we do to help protect our water?

There are lots of ways we can save water and stop water pollution. Save water by taking shorter showers or shallow baths. Wash full loads of laundry. Wash a few dishes by hand. Don’t let the water run with brushing teeth or shaving. Use what you need, then turn it off. Check for leaks and report them.

Use up chemical household cleaners, don’t throw them away or put them down the drain. Share any unused portions of paint with neighbors. Don’t pour used motor oil on the ground or bury old batteries.

Once ground water is polluted, it may stay that way for several thousand years before nature can clean it.

7. How is drinking water purified?

Treating water to make it suitable to drink is much like wastewater treatment. In areas that depend on surface water it is usually stored in a reservoir for several days, in order to improve clarity and taste by allowing more oxygen from the air to dissolve in it and allowing suspended matter to settle out. The water is then pumped to a purification plant through pipelines, where it is treated, so that is will meet government treatment standards. Usually the water runs through sand filters first and sometimes through activated charcoal, before it is disinfected. Disinfection can be done by bacteria or by means of adding substances to remove contaminants from the water. The number of purification steps that are taken depend on the quality of the water that enters the purification plant. In areas with very pure sources of groundwater little treatment is needed.

8. How is drinking water quality protected?

All countries have their own legal drinking water standards. These prescribe which substances can be in drinking water and what the maximum amounts of these substances are. The standards are called maximum contaminant levels. They are formulated for any contaminant that may have adverse effects on human health and each company that prepares drinking water has to follow them up. If water will be purified to make it suitable to drink it will be tested for a number of dangerous pollutants, in order to establish the present concentrations. After that, one can determine how much of the contaminants have to be removed and if necessary purification steps can be progressed.

9. Is bottled water safer than tap water?

Many people worry about getting sick from tap water, because of articles on the news and in the papers, for instance about Legionella outbreaks. They may either drink bottled water or install expensive water purification systems as a result of this. However, studies have indicated that many of these consumers are being ripped off due to the expenses of bottled water and in some cases they may end up drinking water that is dirtier then they can get from their taps. To be safe, consumers that buy bottled water should determine wheather the company that supplies them with water belongs to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and lives up to the testing requirements of drinking water. The IBWA sends inspectors to its companies annually, to ensure that a plant produces safe drinking water.
People can also spare themselves the costs of bottled water and have their tap water tested by local health authorities or private labs. If any contaminants are discovered they can buy a unit that removes the contaminant in concern, but for most households this is not necessary because their tap water is safe enough.

10. What is in our drinking water?

Drinking water, like every other substance, contains small amounts of bacteria. Most of these bacteria are common ones and they are generally not harmful. Chlorine is usually added to drinking water to prevent bacterial growth while the water streams through pipelines. This is why drinking water also contains minimal amounts of chlorine.
Water mostly consists of minerals and other inorganic compounds, such as calcium.
If you want to find out what substances your tap water consists of and whether it is totally safe to drink you can have a specialized agency check it out for you.