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Feature Articles
Editor's Note
Audubon View
Green Guru
Earth Almanac
One Picture
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Field Notes
News Articles
Policy: From Midnight to Morning
Water: Drinking Problem
Interview With Holt Thrasher: He Means Business
Everglades: Off Again, On Again
Sea Life: Sub Plot

iPhone birding; spiritual energy; elk Casanova dies; more.

Relative volumes, left to right: The earth without H2O; the planet’s total water (332,500,00 cubic miles); earth’s available freshwater (8,391,510 cubic miles).
Jack Cook/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Drinking Problem

“Water, water, everywhere,” a fabled mariner observed, “nor any drop to drink.” He was referring to the ocean, of course, which covers nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface and holds about 97 percent of its water. The tiny remainder, freshwater, is in high demand by a global population projected to leap from six billion today to nine billion by 2050. “It’s more precious than oil or gasoline,” says Dave Gallo, director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who co-created the image at right, but “we take it for granted.” A United Nations report released this past March provides a comprehensive look at the state of freshwater and how to manage it sustainably. The report concludes that agriculture uses more of the vital resource globally than any other human activity, accounting for about 70 percent of freshwater taken from rivers, lakes, and aquifers—a trend that will likely increase as diets across the globe embrace more meals, and meat. Industrial and energy sectors consume about 20 percent, trailed by domestic use. Now climate change and its effects on the hydrologic cycle pose new challenges to water management and availability. “Water’s magic,” says Gallo, “but we have to have it in just the right amounts, at just the right times, and at just the right place.”—Julie Leibach

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