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Water, water everywhere?

By Pat, 26 October 2012 News

A dam

Managing freshwater is a major issue in Australia, which is the driest inhabited continent on Earth.

Image: CSIRO

It’s a small molecule, made of oxygen and hydrogen atoms in a V-shape. It’s colourless, odourless and expands when it freezes into a solid. It’s water, and without it, we wouldn’t be here.

Scientists have discovered organisms that can live without light or oxygen, while others thrive with very little heat. But scientists have yet to find life that doesn’t need water. Without water, many biochemical reactions necessary for life would be impossible, including photosynthesis and respiration.

Water also plays a role in the Earth’s climate. Water vapour forms clouds that fall as rain. Ocean currents transport vast quantities of water across the planet. These ocean currents can influence climate patterns.

It may seem that there is water everywhere, but in Australia there often isn’t enough of it. Australia is surrounded by water, but the salty water of the oceans can’t be directly consumed by humans, or used for agriculture. Australia is the driest inhabited continent and this makes the limited freshwater supplies even more valuable.

This week is National Water Week. The purpose of the week is to raise awareness in the community about water issues in Australia. It encourages the community, businesses and industry to reduce water consumption.

There are a number of ways to save water. CSIRO scientists are involved in a number of projects to use water more efficiently in agriculture and industry, as well as developing varieties of grain that use less water.

At home, you can make a difference. Having a shorter shower is the biggest saving that can be made inside the home, while fixing leaking toilets and taps can save a surprising amount of water. In the garden, planting hardy, native species that don’t require much water, as well as watering your plants and lawn at night, can save water. Even just being aware of the amount of the water you use and trying to use less can help.

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