What is 1 cubic meter of water?


One cubic meter (1 m3) is a unit of volume that is equal to 1000 liters or 264.17 gallons. A cubic meter is the volume contained within a cube that measures 1 meter (approximately 3.3 feet) on each side. When referring to water specifically, 1 cubic meter describes the volume occupied by 1000 kilograms or 1 metric ton of pure water at its maximal density and under standard conditions.

Some key facts about 1 cubic meter of water:

  • It has a mass of 1000 kg or 2204.6 pounds.
  • It takes up a volume of 1 m x 1 m x 1 m or approximately 35.3 cubic feet.
  • It contains 1000 liters or about 264.2 gallons.
  • At 4°C or 39°F, its density is 999.972 kg/m3.
  • It exerts a pressure of 9,807 pascals at sea level.

Knowing how much volume and mass is contained in 1 cubic meter of water is useful for various calculations and conversions. For example, when dealing with issues of water storage, supply, use, or flow, cubic meters are a standard unit to quantify volumes. Some common applications and facts:

Swimming Pools

A typical backyard swimming pool holds 22,000–44,000 liters or 22–44 cubic meters of water. That’s the equivalent volume of 22,000–44,000 kg or 48,500–97,000 lb of water.


A standard bathtub holds about 0.17 cubic meters or 170 liters of water when full. That’s about the mass of one average adult human.

Water Use

The average person in the US uses about 0.4–0.6 cubic meters of water per day for drinking, cooking, bathing, sanitation, lawn care, and other uses.


One cubic meter of rainwater across one square meter of surface area equals one millimeter of accumulated rainfall depth. An area that receives 300 mm of rain receives 300 cubic meters of water per square meter.

What is a Cubic Meter?

To understand the volume represented by 1 cubic meter of water, it helps to understand what a cubic meter is in general.

A cubic meter is a derived unit of volume in the metric system. It is measured in cubic units, referring to the three-dimensional space contained within a cube that is 1 meter long on each edge.

One cubic meter is equal to:

  • 1000 liters
  • 35.315 cubic feet
  • 1.308 cubic yards
  • 264.17 US gallons
  • 6.29 oil barrels

Some real-world objects that are roughly equivalent to 1 cubic meter in volume include:

– A typical refrigerator
– The cargo space of a small pickup truck
– A 6-person hot tub
– A stack of 12 standard pallets

So 1 cubic meter represents a substantial but readily imaginable volume. When filled solely with water, it holds a mass of 1000 kg, equal to the mass of a small automobile.

Visualizing a Cubic Meter

It may help to visualize a cubic meter as a cube with the following dimensions:

  • Height: 1 meter (100 cm or 3.28 feet)
  • Width: 1 meter
  • Depth: 1 meter

This equals approximately:

  • Height: from floor to belly button on an average adult
  • Width: wingspan of a large albatross
  • Depth: thickness of a standard interior door

So a cubic meter occupies a substantial volume, similar to a large appliance or piece of furniture. Anything that takes up roughly that much three-dimensional space contains close to 1 cubic meter in volume.

Mass and Density

One of the key properties of 1 cubic meter of water is that it has a mass of 1000 kilograms or 2204.6 pounds at standard conditions. This follows from the density of water under defined conditions.

Density of Water

Density measures how much mass is contained in a certain volume. Water has a density of about 1 gram per cubic centimeter or 1000 kg per cubic meter under the following standard conditions:

  • Temperature: 4°C (39°F)
  • Pressure: 1 atmosphere (atm)

This means 1 cubic meter of water at 4°C and 1 atm pressure will have a mass of 1000 kg. Density varies slightly based on temperature, pressure, and purity, but 1000 kg/m3 is the standard used for calculations and conversions involving water volume.

Some reference values at different temperatures:

Temperature (°C) Density (kg/m3)
0 999.9
10 999.7
20 998.2
30 995.7

So at 20°C for instance, 1 cubic meter would have a mass of 998.2 kg rather than 1000 kg. But 1000 kg/m3 at 4°C is the standard used for water density in calculations.

Mass of 1 Cubic Meter

Based on a density of 1000 kg/m3, 1 cubic meter of water has a mass of:

  • 1000 kilograms
  • 1 metric tonne
  • 2204.6 pounds
  • 1.1 short tons (US)

So one cubic meter of water weighs about as much as a typical small car. This makes sense intuitively, since 1000 liters of water fills a volume similar to a car’s interior space. The density of water and the mass contained in a cubic meter are important for applications like estimating loads, converting between volume units, and calculating the force exerted by water in motion or at pressure.

Volume Conversions

The defined volume of 1 cubic meter makes it useful for converting between different units of volume. Here are some key conversions:

Cubic Meters to Liters

  • 1 cubic meter (m3) = 1000 liters (L)
  • 1 liter (L) = 0.001 cubic meters (m3)

This follows from the definitions of the units. A liter represents a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm cube, while a cubic meter is a 1m x 1m x 1m cube. So 1000 small cubes each containing 1 liter fill up the larger 1m cube.

Cubic Meters to US Gallons

  • 1 cubic meter (m3) = 264.17 gallons (US liquid)
  • 1 US gallon = 0.003785 cubic meters (m3)

Here the conversion factor comes out to a convenient value of about 264 gallons per cubic meter. So a cubic meter contains over 200 gallons.

Cubic Meters to Cubic Feet

  • 1 cubic meter (m3) = 35.315 cubic feet (ft3)
  • 1 cubic foot (ft3) = 0.028317 cubic meters (m3)

In this case the conversion factor is about 35 cubic feet per cubic meter. A cubic meter represents over 35 stacked cubes each 1 foot on a side.

Converting between different volume units is useful for tasks like estimating pool sizes (gallons vs liters vs cubic meters), cargo volumes, water usage, and more.

Pressure Exerted by Water

Based on the mass density of water, one cubic meter also exerts a specific pressure based on the force of gravity. This pressure has important implications for calculating water pressure at a given depth.

Specific Weight of Water

The specific weight of a substance is its weight (force) per unit volume. For water at 4°C with a density of 1000 kg/m3, the specific weight is:

Specific weight = density x gravitational acceleration

= 1000 kg/m3 x 9.807 m/s2

= 9807 N/m3

So for every cubic meter, water has a specific weight of 9807 newtons or 9807 pascals (Pa). This means 1 cubic meter of water exerts about 10 kilopascals of pressure straight down.

Water Pressure with Depth

Water exerts increasing pressure at greater depths. This relates to the specific weight in the following way:

Pressure (Pa) = Depth (m) x Specific weight (N/m3)

For every meter of additional depth, the pressure increases by 9807 Pa. So at a depth of 5 m, the pressure is:

Pressure at 5m depth = 5 m x 9807 Pa/m3 = 49,035 Pa

This principle applies to calculating water pressure in pools, tanks, the sea, etc based on depth. The specific weight of 1 cubic meter of water is fundamental to relating depth to pressure.

Common Applications

Understanding the mass, volume, and pressure of 1 cubic meter of water has many practical applications:

Swimming Pools

For filling a backyard swimming pool, you may need to estimate how many cubic meters or liters of water are required based on pool dimensions. 1 cubic meter = 1000 liters is useful for conversions.

Water Tanks/Towers

Sizing community water tanks and towers depends on calculations involving desired cubic meter storage capacity. 1000 kg per cubic meter helps relate volume to mass loads.

Plumbing Systems

Knowing that 1 cubic meter = 264 gallons allows sizing of pipes, heaters, pumps, etc based on expected water flow rates in cubic meters or gallons per minute.

Marine Engineering

The pressure exerted by 1 cubic meter of seawater at a given depth impacts the design considerations for vessels, platforms, submarines, and underwater structures.

Flood Control

Models of river flooding, storm surges, etc are based on simulations involving cubic meters of water flow per second, as well as the resulting pressure forces.

Hydroelectric Power

Hydropower output depends on flow rates of water in cubic meters per second through dams and turbines, as well as pressures involved.

Fun Facts

Beyond technical applications, a cubic meter of water can also illustrate some fun facts and interesting statistics:

  • The volume of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool is 2500 cubic meters – the equivalent of 2.5 million liters or 660,430 gallons.
  • It takes about 70-150 liters (0.07 – 0.15 cubic meters) of water to fill a typical bathtub.
  • The average North American uses about 380 liters (0.38 cubic meters) of water per day for indoor use.
  • A 10-minute shower can use up to 100 liters (0.1 m3) of hot water.
  • One cubic meter of rainfall evenly distributed over one square kilometer is equivalent to one millimeter of rain depth.
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza contains an estimated 2.6 million cubic meters of stone weighing 6.5 million tonnes.

So comparing volumes, weights, and flow rates to the 1 cubic meter standard helps visualize fundamental measures of water usage, storage, and flow.


In summary, one cubic meter of water represents:

  • A volume of 1000 liters, taking up a cube 1 meter on each side
  • A mass of 1000 kg or 1 metric tonne at standard density
  • A pressure of nearly 10 kilopascals exerted under gravity
  • A unit useful for volume conversions and pressure calculations
  • A practical standard measure for water usage, storage, and flow

Whether you are filling a swimming pool, measuring rainfall, designing plumbing, or engineering marine structures, the volume, mass, and pressure properties of 1 cubic meter of water are invaluable references for visualization, conversion, and real-world applications. Having an intuitive sense of cubic meter scale helps bring meaning to essential calculations involving water volumes.

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