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definitions - Fresh water

fresh water (n.)

1.water that is not salty

Fresh Water (n.)

1.(MeSH)Water containing no significant amounts of salts, such as water from RIVERS and lakes.

fresh-water (adj.)

1.relating to or living in or consisting of water that is not salty"freshwater fish" "freshwater lakes"

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Merriam Webster

Fresh-waterFresh"-wa`ter (?), a.
1. Of, pertaining to, or living in, water which is not salty; as, fresh-water geological deposits; a fresh-water fish; fresh-water mussels.

2. Accustomed to sail on fresh water only; unskilled as a seaman; as, a fresh-water sailor.

3. Unskilled; raw. [Colloq.]Fresh-water soldiers.” Knolles.

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definition (more)

definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - Fresh water

Fresh Water (n.) (MeSH)

Freshwater  (MeSH)

fresh water (n.)


fresh-water (adj.)


see also - Fresh water

fresh water (n.)

brine, saltwater, seawater

analogical dictionary

Wikipedia - see also


Fresh water

  Earth seen from Apollo 17 — the Antarctic ice sheet at the bottom of the photograph contains 61% of the fresh water, or 1.7% of the total water, on Earth.

Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. The term specifically excludes seawater and brackish water although it does include mineral rich waters such as chalybeate springs. The term "sweet water" has been used to describe fresh water in contrast to salt water.[1]



  The surface of a freshwater lake.

Scientifically, freshwater habitats are divided into lentic systems, which are the stillwaters including ponds, lakes, swamps and mires; lotic systems, which are running water; and groundwater which flows in rocks and aquifers. There is, in addition, a zone which bridges between groundwater and lotic systems, which is the hyporheic zone, which underlies many larger rivers and can contain substantially more water than is seen in the open channel. It may also be in direct contact with the underlying underground water.


The source of almost all fresh water is precipitation from the atmosphere, in the form of mist, rain and snow. Fresh water falling as mist, rain or snow contains materials dissolved from the atmosphere and material from the sea and land over which the rain bearing clouds have traveled. In industrialized areas rain is typically acidic because of dissolved oxides of sulfur and nitrogen formed from burning of fossil fuels in cars, factories, trains and aircraft and from the atmospheric emissions of industry. In some cases this acid rain results in pollution of lakes and rivers.

In coastal areas fresh water may contain significant concentrations of salts derived from the sea if windy conditions have lifted drops of seawater into the rain-bearing clouds. This can give rise to elevated concentrations of sodium, chloride, magnesium and sulfate as well as many other compounds in smaller concentrations.

In desert areas, or areas with impoverished or dusty soils, rain-bearing winds can pick up sand and dust and this can be deposited elsewhere in precipitation and causing the freshwater flow to be measurably contaminated both by insoluble solids but also by the soluble components of those soils. Significant quantities of iron may be transported in this way including the well-documented transfer of iron-rich rainfall falling in Brazil derived from sand-storms in the Sahara in north Africa.

  Water distribution

  Visualisation of the distribution (by volume) of water on Earth. Each tiny cube (such as the one representing biological water) corresponds to approximately 1000 cubic km of water, with a mass of approximately 1 trillion tonnes (200000 times that of the Great Pyramid of Giza or 5 times that of Lake Kariba, arguably the heaviest man-made object). The entire block comprises 1 million tiny cubes.[2]

Water is a critical issue for the survival of all living organisms. Some can use salt water but many organisms including the great majority of higher plants and most mammals must have access to fresh water to live. Some terrestrial mammals, especially desert rodents appear to survive without drinking but they do generate water through the metabolism of cereal seeds and they also have mechanisms to conserve water to the maximum degree.

Out of all the water on Earth, only 2.75 percent is fresh water, including 2.05 percent frozen in glaciers, 0.68 percent as groundwater and 0.011 percent of it as surface water in lakes and rivers.[3] Freshwater lakes, most notably Lake Baikal in Russia and the Great Lakes in North America, contain seven-eighths of this fresh surface water. Swamps have most of the balance with only a small amount in rivers, most notably the Amazon River.[citation needed] The atmosphere contains 0.04% water.[4] In areas with no fresh water on the ground surface, fresh water derived from precipitation may, because of its lower density, overlie saline ground water in lenses or layers. Most of the world's fresh water is frozen in ice sheets. Many areas suffer from lack of distribution of fresh water, such as deserts and uncommonly known; Florida, US.

  Numerical definition

Fresh water can be defined as water with less than 500 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved salts.[5]

Water salinity based on dissolved salts
Fresh water Brackish water Saline water Brine
< 0.05% 0.05% – 3% 3% – 5% > 5%

Other sources give higher upper salinity limits for fresh water, e.g. 1000 ppm[6] or 3000 ppm.[7]

  Aquatic organisms

Fresh water creates a hypotonic environment for aquatic organisms. This is problematic for some organisms with pervious skins or with gill membranes, whose cell membranes may burst if excess water is not excreted. Some protists accomplish this using contractile vacuoles, while freshwater fish excrete excess water via the kidney.[8] Although most aquatic organisms have a limited ability to regulate their osmotic balance and therefore can only live within a narrow range of salinity, diadromous fish have the ability to migrate between fresh water and saline water bodies. During these migrations they undergo changes to adapt to the surroundings of the changed salinities; these processes are hormonally controlled. The eel (Anguilla anguilla) uses the hormone prolactin,[9] while in salmon (Salmo salar) the hormone cortisol plays a key role during this process.[10]

Many sea birds have special glands at the base of the bill through which excess salt is excreted. Similarly the marine iguanas on the Galápagos Islands excrete excess salt through a nasal gland and they sneeze out a very salty excretion.

  Fresh water as a resource

  Water fountain found in a small Swiss village. They are used as a drinking water source for people and cattle. Almost every Alpine village has such a water source.

An important concern for hydrological ecosystems is securing minimum streamflow, especially preserving and restoring instream water allocations.[11] Fresh water is an important natural resource necessary for the survival of all ecosystems. The use of water by humans for activities such as irrigation and industrial applications can have adverse impacts on down-stream ecosystems. Chemical contamination of fresh water can also seriously damage eco-systems.

Pollution from human activity, including oil spills, also presents a problem for freshwater resources. The largest petroleum spill that has ever occurred in fresh water was caused by a Royal Dutch Shell tank ship in Magdalena, Argentina, on January 15, 1999, polluting the environment, drinkable water, plants and animals.[12]

Fresh and unpolluted water accounts for 0.003% of total water available globally.[13]


Changing landscape for the use of agriculture has a great effect on the flow of fresh water. Changes in landscape by the removal of trees and soils changes the flow of fresh water in the local environment and also affects the cycle of fresh water. As a result more fresh water is stored in the soil which benefits agriculture. However, since agriculture is the human activity that consumes the most fresh water,[14] this can put a severe strain on local freshwater resources resulting in the destruction of local ecosystems. In Australia, over-abstraction of fresh water for intensive irrigation activities has caused 33% of the land area to be at risk of salination.[14] With regards to agriculture, the World Bank targets food production and water management as an increasingly global issue that will foster debate.[15]

  Limited resource

Fresh water is a renewable and changeable, but limited natural resource. Fresh water can only be renewed through the process of the water cycle, where water from seas, lakes, rivers, and dams evaporates, forms clouds, and returns to water sources as precipitation. However, if more fresh water is consumed through human activities than is restored by nature, the result is that the quantity of fresh water available in lakes, rivers, dams and underground waters is reduced which can cause serious damage to the surrounding environment.

  Fresh water withdrawal

Fresh water withdrawal is the quantity of water removed from available sources for use in any purpose. Water drawn off is not necessarily entirely consumed and some portion may be returned for further use downstream.

  Causes of limited fresh water

There are many causes of the apparent decrease[citation needed] in our fresh water supply. Principal amongst these is the increase in population through increasing life expectancy, the increase in per capita water use and the desire of many people to live in warm climates that have naturally low levels of fresh water resources.[citation needed] Climate change is also likely to change the availability and distribution of fresh water across the planet:

"If global warming continues to melt glaciers in the polar regions, as expected, the supply of fresh water may actually decrease. First, fresh water from the melting glaciers will mingle with salt water in the oceans and become too salty to drink. Second, the increased ocean volume will cause sea levels to rise, contaminating freshwater sources along coastal regions with seawater”.[16]

The World Bank adds that the response by freshwater ecosystems to a changing climate can be described in terms of three interrelated components: water quality, water quantity or volume, and water timing. A change in one often leads to shifts in the others as well.[17] Water pollution and subsequent eutrophication also reduces the availability of fresh water.[18]

  Choices in the use of fresh water

With one in eight people in the world not having access to safe water[19] it is important to use this resource in a prudent manner. Making the best use of water on a local basis probably provides the best solution. Local communities need to plan their use of fresh water and should be made aware of how certain crops and animals use water.

As a guide the following tables provide some indicators.

Table 1 Recommended basic water requirements for human needs.

Activity Minimum litres per day Range litres per day
Drinking Water 5 2-5
Sanitation Services 20 20-75
Bathing 15 5-70
Cooking and Kitchen 10 10-50


Table 2. Water Requirements of different classes of livestock

Animal Average Gallons per day Range gallons per day Average in litres
Dairy cow 20 15-25 90
Cow-calf pair 15 2-20 68
Yearling cattle 10 6-14 45
Horse 10 8-14 45
Sheep 2 2-3 9


Table 3 Approximate values of seasonal crop water needs.

Crop Crop water needs mm / total growing period
Banana 1200-2200
Barley/Oats/Wheat 450-650
Cabbage 350-500
Citrus 900-1200
Onions 350-550
Pea 350-500
Potato 500-700
Sugar Cane 1500-2500
Tomato 400-800


  See also


  1. ^ "sweet-water, n.", Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition (Online version November 2010. ed.), 1989, http://oed.com:80/Entry/195709, retrieved 16 February 2011 
  2. ^ USGS - Earth's water distribution
  3. ^ Physicalgeography.net
  4. ^ Gleick, Peter; et al. (1996). Stephen H. Schneider. ed. Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather. Oxford University Press. 
  5. ^ "Groundwater Glossary". 2006-03-27. http://www.groundwater.org/gi/gwglossary.html#F. Retrieved 2006-05-14. 
  6. ^ "Freshwater". Glossary of Meteorology. American Meteorological Society. June 2000. http://amsglossary.allenpress.com/glossary/search?p=1&query=freshwater. Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  7. ^ "Freshwater". Fishkeeping glossary. Practical Fishkeeping. http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/pfk/pages/glossary.php?entry_name=Freshwater. Retrieved 2009-11-27. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Vertebrate Kidneys". 2002-11-03. http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/V/VertebrateKidneys.html. Retrieved 2006-05-14. 
  9. ^ Kalujnaia, S.; et. al. (2007 Jan 12.). "Salinity adaptation and gene profiling analysis in the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) using microarray technology.". Gen Comp Endocrinol. (National Center for Biotechnology Information) 152 (2007 Jun-Jul): 274–80. DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2006.12.025. PMID 17324422. 
  10. ^ Bisal, G.A.; Specker, J.L. (24 Jan 2006). "Cortisol stimulates hypo-osmoregulatory ability in Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L.". Journal of Fish biology (Wiley) 39 (3): 421–432. DOI:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1991.tb04373.x. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119344565/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0. 
  11. ^ Peter Gleick, Peter; Heather Cooley, David Katz (2006). The world's water, 2006-2007: the biennial report on freshwater resources. Island Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN 1-59726-106-8. http://books.google.com/?id=Lttb1qPh4Z8C. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  12. ^ Petroleomagdalena.com
  13. ^ Nitti, Gianfranco (May 2011). "Water is not an infinite resource and the world is thirsty". The Italian Insider (Rome): p. 8. 
  14. ^ a b Gordon L., D. M. (2003). Land cover change and water vapour flows: learning from Australia. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences , 358 (1440), 1973-1984.
  15. ^ "Reengaging in Agricultural Water Management: Challenges and Options". The World Bank. pp. 4–5. http://water.worldbank.org/water/publications/reengaging-agricultural-water-management-challenges-and-options. Retrieved 2011-30-10. 
  16. ^ Environment.about.com, Larry West - Water Now More Valuable Than Oil?
  17. ^ The World Bank, 2009 "Water and Climate Change: Understanding the Risks and Making Climate-Smart Investment Decisions". pp. 19–22. http://water.worldbank.org/water/publications/water-and-climate-change-understanding-risks-and-making-climate-smart-investment-decisi. Retrieved 2011-24-10. 
  18. ^ "Nutrients in fresh water"
  19. ^ Water Aid. "Water". http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what_we_do/the_need/5899.asp?gclid=CMvwnO7B164CFUcRfAodFkdffg. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  20. ^ Gleick, P. "Basic Water Requirements for Human Activities". http://www.bvsde.paho.org/bvsacd/cd17/basic_wate.pdf. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  21. ^ Filley, S. "How much does a cow need ?". http://extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas/sites/default/files/documents/lf/WATERLF0503.pdf. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  22. ^ Natural Resource Management and Environmental Dept. "Crops Need Water". http://www.fao.org/docrep/S2022E/s2022e02.htm. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 


  • Jackson, Robert B., Stephen R. Carpenter, Clifford N. Dahm, Diane M. McKnight, Robert J. Naiman, Sandra L. Postel, and Steven W. Running. 2001. Water in a changing world. Ecological Applications 11(4): 1027-1045.
  • Richter, Brian D., Ruth Mathews, David L. Harrison, and Robert Wigington. 2003. Ecologically sustainable water management: managing river flows for ecological integrity. Ecological Applications 13(1): 206-224.

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