Matters of Scale - Freshwater Facts

Percent of the earth's surface covered by freshwater
Percent of all fish species that live in fresh water
"We made from water every living thing." -Koran
Percent of U.S. wetlands (excluding Alaska) that have been lost
Percent of U.S. urban, agricultural, or forest land that would be affected by restoring half of the country's lost wetlands
"No possibilities, either biological or engineering, have been overlooked in devising a means to assure perpetuation of the Columbia River salmon." -a 1937 report to the annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society
Percent of the Columbia River's wild salmon population in existence today, compared with the population before dam construction
Percent of the Columbia River's 1,996 kilometers that no longer runs free, because of dams or reservoirs
"It is a serious mistake for any region in the world to use what we did on the Colorado and Columbia Rivers as examples." -Daniel P. Beard, Commissioner, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Number of people who depend on Mekong River fish (90 percent of which spawn in naturally flooded fields and forests) for their nutrition and livelihoods
52 million
Number of the 150 fish species in the Mun River (Thailand's largest tributary of the Mekong) that were found in the river after completion of the Pak Mun dam
Sources: Percent of the earth's surface covered by freshwater: Gleick 1993 (for this and other abbreviated references, see page 35 in this issue); percent of fish species living in freshwater: Moyle and Leidy 1992; U.S. wetland percentages: National Research Council 1992; Columbia wild salmon percentage: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; percentage of the Columbia that is dammed: Wilcove and Bean 1994; number of people dependent on Mekong fish: International Environmental Reporter April 19, 1995; fish die-off in the Mun River and number of dams proposed for the lower Mekong: World Rivers Review 9.4 (1994). Compiled by Janet N. Abramovitz.