Water is a common chemical substance that is essential for the survival of all known forms of life. In typical usage, water refers to its liquid form or state, but the substance also has a solid state, ice, and a gaseous state, water vapor or steam. About 1.460 petatonnes (Pt) (1021 kilograms) of water covers 71% of the Earth's surface, mostly in oceans and other large water bodies, with 1.6% of water below ground in aquifers and 0.001% in the air as vapor, clouds (formed of solid and liquid water particles suspended in air), and precipitation.
Saltwater oceans hold 97% of surface water, glaciers and polar ice caps 2.4%, and other land surface water such as rivers, lakes and ponds 0.6%. Some of the Earth's water is contained within water towers, biological bodies, manufactured products, and food stores. Other water is trapped in ice caps, glaciers, aquifers, or in lakes, sometimes providing fresh water for life on land.
Water moves continually through a cycle of evaporation or transpiration (evapotranspiration), precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea. Winds carry water vapor over land at the same rate as runoff into the sea, about 36 Tt per year. Over land, evaporation and transpiration contribute another 71 Tt per year to the precipitation of 107 Tt per year over land. Clean, fresh drinking water is essential to human and other life. However, in many parts of the world — especially developing countries — there is a water crisis, and it is estimated that by 2025 more than half of the world population will be facing water-based vulnerability. 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 freshwater is consumed by agriculture.