Water is a fundamental resource and one of the most important components of life. Water has significant cultural and economic value. Almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered by water in oceans, lakes, and rivers. Living things, including human beings, can only survive for a few days without water. Water is harnessed for various purposes, including cooking, washing, drinking, as a cooling agent in industries, and power generation among other uses. It is also used for cultural reasons such as rituals as well as for leisure activities. In fact, water was a significant product for the development of agriculture, which led to civilization. Therefore, to understand the impact of water to the society, it is imperative to discuss the water sources, the process of water formation, water and health, as well as the economic importance.
Global Water Cycle
The exchange of water between reservoirs is known as the water cycle. Seas and Oceans are the largest water reservoirs with 97% of the global saline water. The fresh water is about 3%, while a huge part of that water exists in the form of ice. However, the water cycle plays a key role in ensuring that saline water is available for use through evaporation (Holden 19). Water stays in the atmosphere for a few days, forming a significant water cycle.
Evaporation, Condensation, and Transpiration
Evaporation is the process in which water is turned into gas. Through this process, water is transferred into the atmosphere and condensed. Transpiration is the process in which water moves from the soil through the plants and then to the atmosphere. However, it is difficult to determine the percentage of the water going back to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation (Holden 21). The water cycle takes place through evapotranspiration, which is the process of evaporation and transpiration.
Linking Water and Energy
The water cycle is a significant contributor to the global energy budget. The water vapor produced when water is heated becomes a greenhouse gas. In fact, water vapor contributes to 60% of the greenhouse gases. The tropics receive a surplus solar energy while the high latitudes get a lower energy. The imbalances between these latitudes generate imbalances that drive atmospheric and oceanic circulation, which creates weather and climate changes. Water moves from one residence to another through hydro cycle. For instance, glaciers expand and grow larger and melt away to form rivers, which flow towards the huge water bodies such as oceans, lakes, and seas (Holden 21). This movement of water is harnessed to produce energy in the form of electricity.
Most of the water that evaporates from the seas circulates in different forms. Precipitation is one of the factors that determine the varying salinity of the oceans. Precipitation may occur in the form of rain, snow, or fog. In fact, water movement over the atmosphere is usually linked to atmospheric circulation (Haddeland 3257). Some of the evaporated water is precipitated on the land.
Surface Water Quality
Precipitation is the major source of surface water. Once the water falls down as rain, snow, or fog, the water runs off the earth’s surface or infiltrates down to the ground. As it flows along the paths, through the vegetation, and the streets, water might collect materials before entering into the rivers and eventually to the seas. Water that seeps into the ground is exposed to minerals and organic components of the rocks, soil, and sediments (Holden 81). The quality of water is defined by different parameters, which includes:
- Physical aspects, such as color, taste, and
- Biological composition; macro flora and fauna, bacteria and viruses.
- Chemistry aspect- organic compounds, dissolved gases, and human pollution (Holden 93).
Surface Water Pollution
The water on the surface, maybe fresh, but it is usually polluted. Most of the pollution is based on human activities such as agriculture and industrialization. During farming, people use chemicals to enhance their crops and ensure good harvests. However, these chemicals are washed into the rivers and end up polluting the water bodies (Barrow 29). In addition, raw wastes from industries are released into the water without being properly treated, leading to pollution.
The underground water is stored on an aquifer. An aquifer is a geologic unit, which has the ability to store a considerable amount of water that flow fast enough to allow pumping. For the water to be stored in an aquifer, it requires an empty space with a rock or sediment (Holden 134). For the formation of aquifer to take place, the pores have to connect with one another and the rock has to be permeable to allow groundwater flow.
Groundwater is recharged through the hydrologic cycle where water infiltrates the earth’s surface and reaches the water table. However, the groundwater may discharge back to the earth’s surface through springs, or underground flow, which ends up in rivers and lakes. Rainfall is a major source of underground water. However, if precipitation rate is higher than the rate of absorption, then the water may not infiltrate but will overflow across the land. Some parts of the land, such as the swamps are always saturated and any excess water will overflow, hindering infiltration.
The “unconfirmed” aquifer refers to a case where a layer of sediments occurs at the surface over a large geographical area. Water can flow downward through the permeable sediment until it reaches the water table (Holden 131). On the other hand, the confirmed aquifer is the area between two layers of less permeable rock or sediment.
Water and Health
Water plays a significant role in the survival of living things. However, due to pollution, water may spread germs and viruses, causing infections. Waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid if not treated early may cause a significant number of deaths, leading to substantial costs on the affected. Waterborne diseases are spread when an individual comes into contact with contaminated water, including untreated sewer, which contain microbes (Holden 223). Therefore, it is advisable to consume treated or boiled water.
Water is a significant resource economically in the society. People have devised ways in which they can make the scarcity or the availability of water valuable to them. For instance, people who believe that water is associated with chronic illnesses, provide adequate, clean, healthy and portable water at a fee, which is an economic opportunity. However, in some places in the United States such as Boston, water is considered a community resource, giving everyone the right to access it (Holden 293). Nevertheless, in areas that experience high rainfall, people who own land where the lakes or river passes through have certain rights over the water source. Therefore, a negotiation with the owner of the riverfront is required before accessing such waters.
Economic demand for clean water is increasing daily. The industries are consuming thousands of liters in their production line. In addition, water is a major resource in the agriculture, especially in areas that experience low rainfall (Barrow 67). Hence, in order to sustain the demand for water, there must be well-laid water management plan. Nonetheless, these areas face a number of challenges, including climate change, increased population and improved living standards that are increasing the use. It is, therefore, crucial to take care of the water resources available to ensure sustainability.
From the discussion, it is clear that water forms a cycle, which ensures supply and hydro balance. Water from the seas is heated and rises up as vapor that condenses upon reaching the clouds, which then precipitates as rainfall or snow. The water then infiltrates into the ground or flows over the earth’s surface into the seas. It is also clear that water may infiltrate the ground and move to form underground aquifers, which is a great source of water. Additionally, the aquifers discharge the excess water through springs or underground rivers. Due to continued human activities, water sources have been polluted and hence water is no longer safe for consumption. Despite the important uses, contaminated water has also been a major cause of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Economically, water has been used as coolant in manufacturing industries. Therefore, it is important to conserve water resources as they have significant benefits to the environment.