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People and Water

Changing Technologies
Water as a Precious Resource

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

Water use

Different countries use different amounts of water. 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. Many places around the world need extra water because they do not get enough rainfall to grow food. Farmers get it by pumping water from lakes, rivers and underground aquifers to farmland. This water is known as irrigation and is one of the most important uses of freshwater.


Industries use freshwater to produce 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.


Households use freshwater for things like drinking, cooking, cleaning, and watering the garden.

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

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.

Audio Māori keywords: 

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

Today, farming uses about 70% of the world's water. Image: Andrew Penny, 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.

Changing Technologies
Water as a Precious Resource