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Technology solutions to change…

How is water distributed around the world?


Water covers approximately 71 % of our planet, which means that close to three quarters of its surface is composed of H2O. From this perspective it seems that there should be plenty to go around, and in fact there is, but there is a serious problem when it comes to the distribution of this water and its accessibility for use by humans.

The total volume of water on planet earth comes to some 1,386,000,000 million cubic metres, of which 1,338,000,000, nearly 96.5 %, is in salt-water form in our seas and oceans. Only 3 % of the water on our planet is freshwater, of which 1.74 % is actually in ice form in polar ice caps and glaciers, which are currently diminishing as a result of climate change.

Water distribution

The rest of this freshwater is found in various forms, including rivers, lakes and the atmosphere. The following table illustrates the various different types of water and their distribution around the earth:

Location Percentage of total water Type of water
Seas and oceans 96.5% Salty
Polar ice caps and glaciers 1.74% Fresh
Salted groundwater 0.94% Salty
Fresh groundwater 0.76 % Fresh
Continental glaciers and permafrost* 0.022% Fresh
Freshwater lakes 0.007% Fresh
Salt-water lakes 0.006% Salty
Ground humidity 0.001% Fresh
Atmosphere 0.001% Fresh
Reservoirs 0.0008% Fresh
Rivers 0.0002% Fresh
Biological water 0.0001% Fresh
*Permafrost: permanent layer of frost in superficial layers of the soil in very cold or periglacial regions.

Water represents between 50 and 90 % of the mass of living beings, with it being 75 % in human beings and reaching up to 90 % in algae. This means that water is indispensable for the continued existence of living species, and it is also essential for the world to continue developing economically.

Since almost all the water on the planet is in salt-water form, desalination represents an efficient and very real option to obtain clean water for drinking, for our hygiene and to obtain our food; furthermore, water provided in this way is well suited for energy production, which is central to our economic activity.

Desalination is an efficient and very real opportunity to source drinking water that our species needs to survive and continue developing.

At Abengoa, we strive every day to find a way to supply communities of people with the greatest difficulty in gaining access to water, developing plants for the desalination, treatment and reuse of water that are increasingly efficient, and adapting each one to its individual situation and requirements. As such, we are working to resolve the increasingly relevant problems associated with contamination and distribution of water all around our planet.

Cristina Mauleón Marín, Marketing and Communication for Abengoa Water.

Cristina Mauleón Marín,
Marketing and Communication for Abengoa Water.

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