Water: H2O = Life

November 1, 2007 — May 26, 2008


Cascading waterfall.

Every language has a word for water; no living thing exists without water. It soothes the spirit and sustains the body; its beauty inspires art and music. Employed by cultures around the world in rituals and ceremonies, water bathes us from birth to death. Water is essential to life as we know it. And as it cycles from the air to the land to the sea and back again, water shapes our planet—and nearly every aspect of our lives.

Its force and abundance are the backdrop of our lives. Salty or fresh, water is everywhere—falling from the skies, rushing to the sea, lapping the shores, deep within the Earth—cycling in volumes that boggle the mind.

Every single day, even when the sun is shining on you, vast amounts of water are falling as rain all over Earth. Every single year, more than 40,000 cubic kilometers (nearly 10,000 cubic miles) of water pour from Earth's rivers into the sea. Some experts think the amount of water locked in the minerals of Earth's mantle is many times that held by all our oceans.

No wonder we treat water as though there were an infinite supply.

Fresh water makes up only three percent of the water on Earth's surface—and often, places with the most people have the least water. About two-thirds of Earth's fresh water is ice, and much of the remainder is locked underground. A mere fraction of a percent of Earth's water supports all life on land.

Yet all too often we mistreat that precious fraction…and there is no more. Our actions can condemn many of Earth's creatures—our fellow humans among them—to diminished lives and sometimes even to extinction. Can we learn to become better stewards of water? Is there really a choice?

The American Museum of Natural History gratefully acknowledges the Tamarind Foundation for its leadership support of Water: H2O = Life, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future for its assistance.

Exclusive corporate sponsor for Water: H2O = Life was JPMorgan.


Water: H2O = Life was supported by a generous grant from the National Science Foundation 


The support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is appreciated. 


The Museum extends its gratitude to the Panta Rhea Foundation, Park Foundation, and Wege Foundation for their support of the exhibition's educational programming and materials.