The Different Sources Of Fresh Water (Natural & Man Made)

The Different Sources Of Fresh Water (Natural & Man Made)

The following is a short list of the different sources of fresh water, and a description of each.


Surface Water

Includes sources such as lakes, rivers, dams, and so on. Dams are a man made surface water source.

They renew when rain water falls directly into them, or when catchment areas funnel water into them.



Aquifers found underground

They renew naturally via rain water water percolating and infiltrating through the rocks and soil from Earth’s surface, and to a lesser extent from surrounding surface water sources. They can also be recharged artificially through ground water replenishment schemes (e.g. injecting or filtering treated waste water directly into the aquifer)

They typically take 5 years or more to see a meaningful change in water levels i.e. their recharge rate can be slow.



Desalination (removal of total dissolved solids, and water pollutants and contaminants) involves the generation of fresh water from generally inadequate quality water (for drinking or non potable uses), such as sea water, and brackish water.

There’s various types of desalination, and there’s many desalination plants all around the world. 

Read more about the pros and cons of water desalination in this guide


Water From Air

Water can be extracted or drawn from the air via a number of methods.

One way that an atmospheric water generator does this for example is via refrigeration cycles that cool the air to below the dew point, the point at which condensation will form. The end result is potable water.


Water Recycling & Re-Use 

Not technically a water source, but, it is a way to supply and use water that has already been used. 

Water recycling and re-use involves re-using water either with or without treatment for contamination/water pollution.

A few examples of are re-using waste water from industry, or re-using agricultural run-off water.

Read more about the pros and cons of water recycling in this guide


Natural vs Man Made Fresh Water 

Natural sources are naturally formed, and are usually (but not always) recharged and renewed via the hydrological cycle (which starts with rainfall).

Man made sources are constructed by humans, and/or are renewed and recharged by humans (via human made technology)

Some sources such as ground water are naturally formed, but can be recharged via human processes such as artificial ground water replenishment.


Renewal Of Freshwater Sources vs Generating Fresh Water

Some water sources rely on renewal of their supplies (such as surface water and ground water), whilst others can generate a certain amount of fresh water per month of annually (such as desalination).


What Are The Main Sources Of Water?

It depends on the country.

Even different cities, towns and regions within a country can each have different main sources of water that they use for both drinking water, and non potable water.


What Is The Main Source Of Water In The US? indicates that most of the public supply tap water in the US comes from surface water sources:

  • Surface water from freshwater sources (that is, from sources other than the ocean) accounts for more than 60 percent of the water delivered to American homes
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water. For some folks in rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source indicates that different cities and States within the US get their drinking water from different types of sources such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, aquifers, aqueducts, and so on.


What Is The Main Source Of Water In The UK?

  • About one third of tap water in England and Wales comes from underground sources (aquifers), in Northern Ireland and Scotland this figure is 6% and 3%, respectively. The rest comes from reservoirs, lakes, and rivers.
  • Namely, surface water in the UK accounts for 68% and mixed sources for 4% of the supply



What Is The Main Source Of Water In India?

India is one of the major ground water users in the world.

  • India [uses] 25% of all groundwater extracted globally, ahead of the US and China
  • Some 90% of rural India’s drinking water comes from groundwater and 75% of agriculture is groundwater-based. In urban India, 50% of the water supply is groundwater-based



What Is The Main Source Of Water In Australia?

Some estimates indicate one fifth to one third of the water used in Australia comes from ground water, but, majority comes from surface water.

Some cities such as Perth rely heavily on desalination.









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