Water covers 71 % of the Earth's surface, and is vital for all known forms of life. On Earth, 96.5 % of the planet's water is found in oceans, 1.7 % in groundwater, 1.7 % in glaciers and the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland, a small fraction in other large water bodies, and 0.001 % in the air as vapor, clouds (formed of solid and liquid water particles suspended in air), and precipitation. Only 2.5 % of the Earth's water is freshwater, and 98.8 % of that water is in ice and groundwater. Less than 0.3 % of all freshwater is in rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere, and an even smaller amount of the Earth's freshwater (0.003 %) is contained within biological bodies and manufactured products.
Water on Earth moves continually through the hydrological cycle of evaporation and transpiration (evapotranspiration), condensation, precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea. Evaporation and transpiration contribute to the precipitation over land.
Safe drinking water is essential to humans and other lifeforms even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. Access to safe drinking water has improved over the last decades in almost every part of the world, but approximately one billion people still lack access to safe water and over 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. There is a clear correlation between access to safe water and GDP per capita. However, some observers have estimated that by 2025 more than half of the world population will be facing water-based vulnerability. A recent report (November 2009) suggests that by 2030, in some developing regions of the world, water demand will exceed supply by 50 %. Water plays an important role in the world economy, as it functions as a solvent for a wide variety of chemical substances and facilitates industrial cooling and transportation. Approximately 70 % of the fresh water used by humans goes to agriculture.