About Water

About Water 2017-01-23T10:21:06+00:00

Water is essential to life as we know it

  • Makes up 70% of our body
  • Makes up 85% of blood
  • Helps digest food, lubricate joints, regulate body temperatures, transport nutrients

Humans can live much longer without food than they can without water

  • The average adult must replace 2 to 3 quarts of water daily
    • Average from 13,000 to 20,000 gallons over a normal lifetime

Water is used for

  • Food production
  • Power generation
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Fire fighting
  • Cooking
  • Bathing

What is water?

  • Exists in three forms (solid, liquid, gas)
  • In its pure form, colorless, odorless, and tasteless
  • Present in the air as vapor at all temperatures

How much water is available?

  • One of the most abundant substances on Earth
  • Oceans cover 70% of the planet’s surface
  • If Earth were a perfect sphere, entire globe would be covered by 800 feet of water
  • Oceans, or salt water, make up about 97% of all water
  • 3% is fresh water
    • Two-thirds of this water is in ice at the North and South Poles
    • 1% of total water on Earth is available for common uses
  • At any given time, only 0.001 per cent of the total water is in atmosphere
  • Average rainfall in the United States is 30 inches per year
    • Alabama has an average of 55 inches per year, second only to Louisiana’s 57 inches per year in the United States
  • Of the total liquid fresh water on earth
    • 98% is groundwater
    • 2% is surface, which accounts for most water uses
  • The United States has 2 million miles of streams and more than 30 million acres of lakes and reservoirs
    • Huge reserves of fresh water underground supplies about half of the drinking water in our country
  • Alabama has superb water resources
  • Surface water
    • 14 major river systems or basins
    • 348,826 acres of lakes and reservoirs
    • 400,000 acres of estuaries
    • More than 3 millions acres of wetlands and marshes
    • Provides 56% of the drinking water in Alabama
  • Groundwater
    • Provides 44% of home water supplies
    • A primary source of water for South Alabama where groundwater is readily available and of good quality
    • Some rural areas draw up to 90% of supplies from groundwater

How much water do we use?

  • The average American family of four uses
    • 88,000 gallons a year
    • 240 gallons a day
    • 60 gallons per person per day, mostly in the bathroom
  • In manufacturing, various amounts of water are used in production
    • 148 gallons for a Sunday newspaper
    • 32 gallons for a pound of steel
    • 158 gallons for a pound of aluminum
    • 800,000 gallons a year to provide one person with food
      • 148 gallons for a loaf of bread
      • 285 gallons for a pound of ground

Who owns the water?

  • Depends on the location of the water over time
  • In Alabama
    • In general, surface water belongs to the individual landowner, except in municipal limits of incorporated cities
    • Rural landowners are entitled to all the surface water they can retain and use on their land
    • Riparian Rights Doctrine
      • Water in its natural state, or a water course, can be used only on that land through which it flows
  • Reasonable Use Doctrine
    • Riparian water may be used for any purpose so long as quality and quantity of flow are adequate for other downstream riparian owners
      • Normally requires a permitting program, which Alabama does not have
  • Public Trust Doctrine
    • Private rights to use water may be limited by the need to preserve environmental, scenic, recreational, or scientific areas that benefit all
    • Not yet adopted in all states, including Alabama

Source: Water Quality Control Handbook, Circular ANR 790, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, Auburn University, Alabama