Freshwater wonders

Fresh water is an indispensable resource for all known forms of life. We could not survive without it because it keeps the body hydrated: living beings are composed by 50-90% of water. Water is present in most foods, and people cannot survive without drinking for more than 5 or 6 days.

Ecologically, it maintains ecosystems and carries nutrients, sediments and life. Plants are the lungs of the Earth, they need water for photosynthesis and cellular respiration: without it they could not produce oxygen. Freshwater ecosystems are full of life, and they house thousands of species that would end up without a habitat, water was reduced or polluted. The first forms of life appeared in water and living things that are in it are essential to the food chain.

The most successful civilizations are those that developed by freshwater sources such as rivers. On the other hand, populations

where water is scarce, such as many areas in Africa, have had developmental problems.

In conclusion, fresh water is the foundation of sustainable living and it is home to a very large biodiversity, with unique species and with a higher percentage of diversity than terrestrial or marine ecosystems. In short, it is essential to life.

Crater Lake

It must have been the largest explosion in the history of Earth. Nearly 8,000 years ago, a massive eruption took almost 1 kilometer off the volcano Mount Mazama in Oregon, reducing its height to 3,660 meters. The explosion left a crater 592 meters deep that was filled with snow, which then melted to form the lake called Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States of America, and the deepest in the world entirely above sea level. There is no way in and no way out: it fills with water thanks to rain or snow, and then the water evaporates or infiltrates into the soil and rock, creating an almost pristine ecosystem. For that reason it is closely watched by researchers. The Klamath tribe of Native Americans, whose ancestors witnessed the explosion, remember it in their legends and still see the lake as a sacred place.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is dying. The salty waters of the lake, in the lowest point on Earth, 416 meters below sea level, have been decreasing at rate of one meter per year approximately. The waters of the Jordan River that feed it have been diverted to supply housing and agriculture, leaving salt concentrations nine times higher than in the Mediterranean. True to its name, no plants or animals can live in this sea -except algae and bacteria-, although people come to experience the feeling of resting effortlessly in the water, which is believed to have healing properties. One possible plan would be the highly controversial construction of a canal to bring water from the Red Sea, but environmentalists argue that a proper management of existing supplies would be a better solution.

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal contains one fifth of all the fresh water in the world that is not frozen. It is the deepest lake (1,637 meters) and oldest (25 million years old) on Earth. Its age and isolation give it a rich and unique biodiversity. A thousand of the 2,635 known species of animals and plants are nowhere else in the world. Among these species is the Baikal seal, one of only three known species of freshwater seals, which can swim for 70 minutes without breathing, and the multicolor turbelario Baikal, a worm 30 inches long that lives in the bottom of the lake. So far, its depths have been hidden from humans. But in the summer of 2008, Russian scientists began exploring the bottom of the lake, so they might be about to reveal one of the biggest mysteries yet to be solved.

Lake Titicaca

More than 25 rivers empty their waters into Lake Titicaca. This lake is the highest navigable body of water, at 3,812 meters above sea level. There is a temple in the largest of its 41 islands, and, according to tradition, it is where the founders of the dynasty of the Incas, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, emerged from the depths to establish their empire. The archaeological remains testify that at least a thousand years ago there was a civilization along the lake, but perhaps its most intriguing feature consists in its "Uros", about 40 artificial islands bearing the name of the people who build and live on them. These islands are made of Tortora reeds, which grow on the banks of the lake, and they are anchored to the bottom with ropes and sticks.

The Greenland ice sheet

One tenth of the world's fresh water is locked up in the vast Greenland ice sheet. If it melted, the sea levels would rise 7 meters, flooding many coastal cities, along with low countries like Bangladesh. Until recently, scientists believed that the ice would not melt for a thousand years, even with global warming, but it is clear now that this is happening much more quickly, seeing that giant glaciers have started moving rapidly towards the sea. The water collects on the surface of the ice, as the ice melts: huge waterfalls then rush through the cracks, and accumulate on the rock beneath the glacier, acting as huge conveyor belts. The Semen Kujalleq Glacier, the largest in Greenland, is now losing a staggering 35 cubic kilometers of ice per year.

The Nile

To give you an idea of how big the longest river in the world is: the area of surface waters, 3.35 million square kilometers, is more than five times the size of France. The river, which flows for 6,500 kilometers (from East Africa to the Mediterranean) was the cradle of ancient Egyptian civilization and ensured its prosperity. Its annual floods, which occur every June, have deposited rich silt on its floodplains and delta. This has become extremely fertile land, ensuring that Egyptian agriculture was the most productive and stable region. Currently, 105 million people live along the river, mostly in Egypt, and 160 million in its basin, which puts their water and agriculture under extreme pressure. This number is expected to double in less than 25 years.

The Marshes of Iraq

The marshes of Iraq: they are the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East. They are believed to have been the inspiration for the Garden of Eden. Formerly they covered approximately 21 square kilometers. They are amongst the most important wildlife habitats of the world and they are home to half a million people -a people who descend from the ancient Babylonians and Sumerians-, farmers and fishermen, as their ancestors. During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the marshes were drained to a tenth of their former size, turning many of them into an uninhabitable salt desert. Recently, with the help of UNEP , they are beginning to flood them and restore them, people are returning, and there are plans to declare them UNESCO World Heritage.

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CEP Santa Rosa Marist Brothers - Sullana (Peru) and IES Manacor - Mallorca (Spain)
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