By David Ponce
We like to think of our planet as made up entirely of water. After all, over 70% of its surface is covered in H2O. But the truth is that there’s comparatively very little of it. We’re not saying there isn’t much water. Just that if you put all the water (the oceans, the lakes, the water in the air and frozen up in ice and snow) in one place and compare it to the volume of the entire planet, it ain’t much. As you can see in the image above, created by the US Geological Survey, all the earth’s water would make up a ball with a diameter of 860 miles. The Earth itself in comparison has a diameter of about 7,900 miles. 860 miles isn’t much: it’s the distance from Salt Lake City, Utak to Topeka, Kansas and represents a volume of 332.5 million cubic miles (mi3).
The USGS article that gave us the above picture also has a fascinating lists of water facts. Here’s one: “About 3,100 mi3 (12,900 km3) of water, mostly in the form of water vapor, is in the atmosphere at any one time. If it all fell as precipitation at once, the Earth would be covered with only about 1 inch of water.”
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The 48 contiguous United States receives a total volume of about 4 mi3 (17.7 km3) of precipitation each day.
Each day, 280 mi3 (1,170 km3)of water evaporate or transpire into the atmosphere.
If all of the world’s water was poured on the United States, it would cover the land to a depth of 90 miles (145 kilometres).
Of the freshwater on Earth, much more is stored in the ground than is available in lakes and rivers. More than 2,000,000 mi3 (8,400,000 km3)of freshwater is stored in the Earth, most within one-half mile of the surface. But, if you really want to find freshwater, the most is stored in the 7,000,000 mi3 (29,200,000 km3) of water found in glaciers and icecaps, mainly in the polar regions and in Greenland.