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Fishing with Fyke nets


The River Tyne

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Why is freshwater important? Why is freshwater important?

Importance of freshwater

Approximately 97% of the water found on Earth is saltwater leaving around 3% of Earth’s water as freshwater. Of this, 70% is in the form of ice in glaciers, ice caps and as permanent snow. The remaining minority of available freshwater is stretched for use by Earth’s 6 ¾ billion people for agriculture, industry, recreation, tourism and municipal use. This remaining useable freshwater is in the form of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and general wet “boggy” areas. Lakes, ponds and bogs are generally stationary (lentic) bodies of water, although bogs can be a source of rivers and streams, which are moving (lotic) bodies of water.

Humans use these different bodies of water for different purposes, with most of the UK’s largest cities being on or close to a river estuary, demonstrating our dependence upon fresh waters. Freshwater ecosystems support us many other ways too; dams can be built to harness the power of rivers to generate electricity. Rivers also provide water for irrigation and industry, processing wastes, producing timber and supplying food. Freshwater serves an important role in transporting goods via ships. They also serve for recreational, cultural and aesthetic purposes. Because of the huge demand we have on freshwater systems, they require 'Management and Policies' inorder to regulate and protect them.

Freshwaters are also an important source of food for humans. Globally, freshwater fisheries are one of the most over exploited resources producing one quarter of the world's fish from only a fraction of a percent of the world's water resources. To read more on 'Fisheries and Aquaculture', have a look at our FreshwaterLife pages.

Pollution and waste due to industrial exploitation and overpopulation are a serious threat to our freshwater resources. Residential, commercial and industrial premises are often concentrated near waterways, lakes and rivers. Historically, humans have congregated by freshwater and used it as medium for transport of goods and people. For more information about the impacts humans have on freshwaters, have a look at our 'Human Impacts' section.