Water is an essential for life on earth. In fact, around two thirds of the human body is made up of water – that is how important it is for us.
We use water to drink, to wash and to cook with. Without sources of water near to us, we would really struggle.
What is a water source? A source of water is anything that provides us with water.
Major Sources of Water
There are various different sources of water out there in the world, and below you will find in depth information on our main water sources.
1. Rivers and streams.
Rivers and streams are a source of fresh (i.e. not salty) water. Collecting water from rivers is still a widespread practice. Often it will need to be treated to be safe for drinking. The rivers that we see above ground originate underground, and burst through to the surface of the earth as springs. River water is generally safest to drink close to the source – the spring. However, it is also true that river water can absorb minerals if it flows a certain way through mineral rich rock (for example volcanic rock) and so to get the benefit of these minerals it can be a good idea to let your river water flow awhile through mineral deposits to get the full benefit of it. The source of the river is called the head, and the end of the river – the point at which it flows into the sea – is known as the mouth. It may be surprising, but many of the world’s great rivers, such as the Thames in London, UK, start off their lives as small trickles of water emerging from an underground spring. As well as providing us with water for drinking and washing, rivers have also historically provided us with a means of transport – taking a boat along a river remains a useful way to get people and goods from A to B.
Lakes are still bodies of (usually fresh) water. They are replenished by the rain and often by rivers and streams, too. Some lakes are natural lakes, forming in valleys in hilly or mountainous regions. Others are man made. A good example of a man made lake is a quarry lake. When land is quarried, a large basin remains cut away from the earth. Once it fills with water, this can form a lake. Again, lakes have long provided humans with a source of drinking and washing water.
3. The sea.
The sea’s water is salty. Our oceans and seas are, combined, very much the largest water source on earth. Home to many weird and wonderful creatures and ripe for exploration, the sea is essential for biodiversity on earth. Though drinking salty water in large quantities is usually harmful to humans, it is possible to drink sea water if it is first treated in a desalination plant. Desalination means getting rid of the salt in sea water. Though this is certainly not the most efficient way to obtain drinking water, it is a viable option if sea water is the only water source available. In fact, it is common for boaters and adventurers to have desalination kits available to hand, so that if they do need to drink sea water or brackish (salty) water from the mainland, they can render it drinkable first.
Rainwater falls naturally over all of our planet, except in the very harshest and driest deserts. Rainwater in rural areas is usually safe to drink, though in the cities rainwater can be contaminated by the pollutants found in vehicle and factory fumes rendering it highly acidic. Nevertheless, rainwater is an abundant source of water for watering plants and crops. Many people use rainwater as a free source of water for washing their cars, too. Rainwater can be collected in water butts or simply in tubs left on the roof or outside the window. Rainwater is sometimes referred to as ‘gray water’. People who go traveling in camper vans or who stay in tents often collect rainwater and sterilize it either by boiling it or by mixing it with sterilizing tablets so that they can use it for drinking and brushing their teeth with.
Water from wells tends to be very fresh and clean, and they have been a source of water for many centuries. Usually man made, wells are deep shafts dug into the earth until water is found. Well water is generally thought to be clear and uncontaminated – as long as the well is dug down very deep. It is accessed by lowering a bucket on a rope down to the bottom of the well, letting the bucket fill with water and then hauling it back up again. However, adequate precautions need to be taken to protect the well water from contamination.
Reservoirs are like artificial lakes created by humans to collect either rain water or river water. The water in a reservoir is typically treated in a water treatment plant until it is safe to drink and then piped off to people’s homes for them to use in the form of tap water. Reservoirs may look like natural bodies of water – they may be cut in to a hillside, for example and reinforced with concrete or stone. Or, they may simply be large metal structures that are able to hold huge amounts of water – ready to be piped over to your bathroom or kitchen whenever you feel that you need a glass of water to drink.
7. Recycling water.
Did you know that much of the water than you drink has been recycled, whether it comes in bottled form or out of the tap? Sewage and tap water than runs down the sink (for instance when you brush your teeth) can be cleaned and sterilized and made ready for people to drink it once more. There is nothing dangerous about this – in fact, you may well have been drinking recycled water all of your life without realizing it.
As you can see, there are a plethora of different sources of water out there for us to use. But, unless we use water wisely, those sources of water are in danger of becoming depleted. So why not take some steps in order to save water right now? It is easier than you think, and it will help to ensure that future generations can make the most of the earth’s water sources.