Planet Earth’s Water

The first outstanding fact about water on our planet is that water is not made. The water we have today has been here for a long time, billions of years, changing from solid to liquid to gas and back again and re-cycling through every known organism. There is no known organism that lives without the presence of water. It remains the common ingredient to all life forms on the planet.

Water as we are taught is chemically described as H2O. Though chemically correct this is not water as we use it. Pure water (i.e. H2O) is an insulator, odourless and tasteless. The term plain water generally describes water that does not have additives other than what occurs naturally.

The composition of water from each waterway is unique. Water in nature dissolves many elements including salts, minerals, metals and other compounds. This gives it taste. Water falling as rain trickles over unique surfaces of soil, rock, organic matter and vegetation to gain a unique cocktail of ingredients.

Fish such as  salmon recognise these unique flavours and follow that water upstream to breed.

Water from within the earth, can have an even greater range of ingredients. We know this as mineral or spring water.

So where did the water come from?

Scientists seem to agree that our water dates back at least 3.5 billion years. Our water was most likely deposited on Earth during early formative days, either as ice meteors or as a combination of deposits that included water. Regardless, water is not made, it is a fixed resource which re-cycles and is re-used.

Humans only have direct access to 0.05% of the water on the planet.

Of all the water on the planet only 3% is freshwater, the remaining 97% is saline in the oceans. Only 1% of the freshwater is accessible as 2% is frozen or locked away. Discounting for lakes and rivers, the estimated available water for human use is 0.05% of the water on the planet.

The Earth’s population of over 7 billion people is stressing the quality of available water.

The major cause of depletion of water quality is pollution discharged from urban areas. Run-off (stormwater) is the major transporter of pollutants into the aquatic systems. These pollutants can be fundamentally divided into two groups. On one-hand there are naturally occurring substances, such as Nitrogen, which in a pre-urbanised environment were present in small concentrations and are a food source for micro-organic organisms: aquatic flora and fauna. These are now pollutants due to overdosing. The other group are foreign substances, generally man-made chemicals that have been created in recent years. There hasn’t been time for organisms to adapt and develop (evolve) to utilise these substances.

Recent analysis of stormwater in Australia and other regions provide clear indications of socio economic habits, with clear indications of the presence of pharmaceutical compounds and illicit drugs. Groundwater is also being similarly contaminated.

The solution is complex. The first step is to reduce or eliminate contaminates from water flows before engaging the second phase of remediation.

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