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Fresh water


Fresh water refers to bodies of water containing low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. Fresh water is an important renewable resource, necessary for the survival of most terrestrial organisms, and is required by humans for drinking and agriculture, among many other uses.


Numerical definition

Fresh water is defined as water with less than 0.5 parts per thousand dissolved salts.[1] Freshwater bodies include lakes, rivers, and some bodies of underground water. The ultimate source of fresh water is the precipitation of atmosphere in the form of rain and snow.

Water salinity based on dissolved salts in parts per thousand (ppt)
Fresh water Brackish water Saline water Brine
< 0.5 0.5 - 35 35 - 50 > 50

Water distribution

Access to unpolluted fresh water is a critical issue for the survival of many species, including humans, who must drink fresh water in order to survive. Only three percent of the water on Earth is fresh water in nature, and about two-thirds of this is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. Most of the rest is underground and only 0.3 percent is surface water. Freshwater lakes, most notably Lake Baikal in Russia and the Great Lakes in North America, contain seven-eighths of this fresh surface water. Swamps have most of the balance with only a small amount in rivers, most notably the Amazon River. The atmosphere contains 0.04% water. [2] In areas with no fresh water on the ground surface, fresh water derived from precipitation may, because of its lower density, overlie saline ground water in lenses or layers.

Aquatic organisms

Fresh water creates a hypotonic environment for aquatic organisms. This is problematic for some organisms, whose cell membranes will burst if excess water is not excreted. Some protists accomplish this using contractile vacuoles, while freshwater fish excrete excess water via the kidney.[3] Although most aquatic organisms have a limited ability to regulate their osmotic balance and therefore can only live within a narrow range of salinity, diadromous fish have the ability to migrate between fresh water and saline water bodies. During these migrations they undergo changes to adapt to the surroundings of the changed salinities; these processes are hormonally controlled. The eel (Anguilla anguilla) uses the hormone prolactin, while in salmon (Salmo salar) the hormone cortisol plays a key role during this process.

See also


  1. ^ Groundwater Glossary (2006-03-27). Retrieved on 2006-05-14.
  2. ^ Gleick, Peter; et al. (1996). in Stephen H. Schneider: Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather. Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ Vertebrate Kidneys (2002-11-03). Retrieved on 2006-05-14.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Fresh_water". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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