The World's Water

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Water on Earth is in lakes, the ocean, rivers, underground, and frozen glaciers. In this activity, learners will model how much water of each type is found around the globe to help visualize the distribution. A table is provided that shows the percentages from each source and amounts needed if Earth’s real water total is scaled down 500 mL. Step-by-step instructions are included with photos. Activity guide includes a "What's going on?" explanation and relevant connections to the uses of freshwater.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 8 large drinking cups or bowls, each 500 mL (about 16 oz) or larger
  • Liquid measuring cup, 500 mL or larger
  • Measuring spoon set
  • Masking tape
  • Marker
  • Dropper
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Paper and pencil (optional)
  • Map (optional)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
      • Atmosphere
      • Biosphere


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DIY Science Apps


  • , The Regents of the University of California, 2015

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, DRL1114663