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Water as a resource
Water is used by humans for a wide variety of purposes. Being able to provide water
when and where it is needed have allowed society to develop and become comfortable
whether its use is directly for domestic consumption or because of the industrial
goods and services that its use make possible.
The human uses of water
Use Proportion of global use %
Domestic uses 15
Abstractive uses involve removing the water from where it was found. After use it may be
discharged in a different location or state of matter.
Domestic uses -
These include washing, flushing toilets, food preparation, drinking watering house and
garden plants and recreation. In MEDCs the water is purified before use and the amount
available does not usually restrict its use. In LEDCs shortages often restrict use to
essential activities. The technology may not be available to purify it so water-borne
diseases are common.
Industrial uses -
Many industries such as power stations, the chemical industry and some mining and
mineral processing industries, require large amounts of water.
Major industrial uses of water include cooling, heating, washing, steam generation,
transport and as a solvent.
Approximately half the water used in the UK is used in power stations to condense
Agricultural uses -
Like all living organisms, crops and livestock need water to survive. If it is not
naturally available then it must be provided.
Irrigation is the biggest single agricultural use of water. Cereal crops are often grown
in areas that used to be grasslands where the climate is rather dry such as the
mid-west of the USA. If the plants are short of water they will close their stomata to
reduce water loss. This stops the absorption of carbon dioxide and therefore growth.
So, farmers irrigate crops to maximise growth, not just to prevent to crops form drying
out and dying. Irrigation also aids nutrient uptake as they can only be absorbed by the
roots if they are dissolved in water.
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Water is also used for livestock drinking. The quantity required is much smaller but
providing it is vital for the survival of the animals.
Non-abstractive uses of water
These use the water where it is found or nearby and do not take it away or move it to
another water body or catchment area.
Catchment area - the area of land that collects water, which will flow down to the
lowest point, e.g. a river, lake, aquifer or the sea.…read more