• Learning Objectives
  • Case Study: The River Ganges
  • Water and Science
    • The Structure of Water
      • Water Solvency
      • Three Physical States
      • Water Density
    • Water, Specific Heat and Chemical Reactions
    • The Distribution of Precipitation
      • Water and Biomes
    • The Sources and Human Uses of Water
      • Human Access to Water
      • Human Uses and Consequences
  • Water and Ethics
  • Water and Spirituality
  • Water and Action
    • Regional Reports
    • Action Ideas
  • Chapter Reflection Questions and Explorations
  • Additional Resources

AlertIf you have not done so, please read the Healing Earth Introduction before proceeding through this chapter. The Introduction gives you background terms and explanations necessary for understanding the chapter.

Closer Look


Watch Our Thirsty World, a short video introduction to water by National Geographic.

Imagine your life for one day without water. How would you clean yourself, quench your thirst, prepare your food, or wash your clothes? Human beings and other living creatures need water to survive.

rule of 3
The Rule of Threes 1

Have you ever heard of the ‘Rule of Threes’? If you are ever stuck in a life-threatening environment, you have three minutes to breathe fresh air, three hours to reach shelter (in an environment of severe heat or cold), three days to access drinkable water, and three weeks to find food.

Today, it is estimated that a child dies every minute for lack of fresh water. This is a stark reminder that a major environmental challenge of our time is securing enough clean water to support life on Earth. To meet this challenge, we must first understand the science of water. We must then draw on the resources of ethics and spirituality to guide our decisions. Together, science, ethics, and spirituality can empower us to take action to improve our fresh water supply, for now and for future generations.