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People and Water

Water as a Precious Resource
The Water Cycle

People use water in the home, for agriculture and for industry. Not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water.

The significance of water to Māori

Wai (water) is sacred to Māori and has many different uses. Different types of water are known as momowai. Wai comes from Papatūānuku and Rangi-nui. Wai has its own mauri/life force and spirit. Wai gives people life and food.

What water is used for

Different countries use different amounts of water, but we all use water in a similar way.

The way people use freshwater can be divided into three groups;

  • farming
  • industry
  • households


As the number of people in the world grows we need to grow more food. To make food, we need water. There are many places around the world that do not get enough rainfall to grow food so extra water must be added. This water is pumped from lakes, rivers and underground aquifers to farmland. This water is known as irrigation and is one of the most important uses of freshwater.


Freshwater is also used for industries that make or process things like metals, wood, paper products, chemicals, petrol and oil. For example, it takes about 50,000 litres of water to make a car and about 200 litres to make one newspaper. Water can also be used to make electricity. 

Household use

Freshwater is used by households – all the things we do at home like drinking, cooking, cleaning, and watering the garden.

If we all use water wisely we can make sure that there is enough clean freshwater for everyone.     

A growing demand for water

We now use fresh water for more things than ever before. This means that there is not always enough water in some parts of the world. 

One in every eight people in the world does not have access to clean water. Often there is enough rainfall or other water sources but there is no way to get this water to the people who need it. 

In Aotearoa New Zealand

During this field trip, you will see where our water comes from and how it travels through pipes, pumping stations and treatment plants to our taps. You will find out how to look after this water and how to use less water.

Ready for a quiz?


Audio Māori keywords: 

How do you think the way we use water has changed over time?

All living things rely on water for survival. Image: LEARNZ.

About 70% of water used in the world today is used for farming. Image: LEARNZ.

Māori have a spiritual connection with water. Water provides life, food and identity. Image: Public Domain.

Water has many uses. Water can even be used to generate electricity. How is electricity generated from water? Image: LEARNZ.

There is only a limited supply of water on Earth therefore we must look after it. Image: LEARNZ. 

Water as a Precious Resource
The Water Cycle