AskDefine | Define freshwater

Dictionary Definition

freshwater adj : relating to or living in or consisting of water that is not salty; "freshwater fish"; "freshwater lakes"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Living in fresh water.
    • freshwater fish
  2. Unskilled as seaman.
    • freshwater sailor


living in fresh water
  • Finnish: makeanveden
  • Russian: пресноводный
unskilled as seaman
  • Finnish: järvi-, sisävesi-

Extensive Definition

A term that refers to bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, rivers and streams containing low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. Freshwater is an important renewable resource, necessary for the survival of most terrestrial organisms, and is required by humans for drinking and agriculture, among many other uses. The UN estimates that about 1.2 billion people (18 percent of the world's population) lack access to safe drinking water.

Numerical definition

Freshwater is defined as water with less than 0.5 parts per thousand dissolved salts. Freshwater bodies include lakes and ponds, rivers, some bodies of underground water and many kinds of man-made freshwater bodies, such as canals, ditches and reservoirs. The ultimate source of freshwater is the precipitation of atmosphere in the form of rain and snow.

Water distribution

Access to unpolluted freshwater is a critical issue for the survival of many species, including humans, who must drink freshwater in order to survive. Only three percent of the water on Earth is freshwater in nature, and about two-thirds of this is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps. Most of the rest is underground and only 0.3 percent is surface water. Freshwater lakes, most notably Lake Baikal in Russia and the Great Lakes in North America, contain seven-eighths of this fresh surface water. Swamps have most of the balance with only a small amount in rivers, most notably the Amazon River. The atmosphere contains 0.04% water. In areas with no freshwater on the ground surface, freshwater derived from precipitation may, because of its lower density, overlie saline ground water in lenses or layers.

Aquatic organisms

Freshwater creates a hypotonic environment for aquatic organisms. This is problematic for some organisms, whose cell membranes will burst if excess water is not excreted. Some protists accomplish this using Contractile vacuoles, while freshwater fish excrete excess water via the kidney. Although most aquatic organisms have a limited ability to regulate their osmotic balance and therefore can only live within a narrow range of salinity, diadromous fish have the ability to migrate between freshwater and saline water bodies. During these migrations they undergo changes to adapt to the surroundings of the changed salinities; these processes are hormonally controlled. The eel (Anguilla anguilla) uses the hormone prolactin, while in salmon (Salmo salar) the hormone cortisol plays a key role during this process.
freshwater in Catalan: Aigua dolça
freshwater in Danish: Ferskvand
freshwater in German: Süßwasser
freshwater in Estonian: Magevesi
freshwater in Spanish: Agua dulce
freshwater in Esperanto: Nesala akvo
freshwater in Persian: آب شیرین
freshwater in French: Eau douce
freshwater in Korean: 민물
freshwater in Indonesian: Air tawar
freshwater in Hebrew: מים מתוקים
freshwater in Latvian: Saldūdens
freshwater in Luxembourgish: Séisswaasser
freshwater in Macedonian: Питка вода
freshwater in Dutch: Zoetwater
freshwater in Japanese: 淡水
freshwater in Norwegian: Ferskvann
freshwater in Norwegian Nynorsk: Ferskvatn
freshwater in Low German: Söötwater
freshwater in Polish: Woda słodka
freshwater in Portuguese: Água doce
freshwater in Russian: Пресная вода
freshwater in Simple English: Fresh water
freshwater in Finnish: Makea vesi
freshwater in Swedish: Sötvatten
freshwater in Tamil: நன்னீர்
freshwater in Vietnamese: Nước ngọt
freshwater in Ukrainian: Прісна вода
freshwater in Chinese: 淡水
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