Water is amazing! Every day we depend on it; water is essential to all life on our planet. Our blood is 80% water, our bodies 60-65% water. We drink it every day and depend upon it as the only real thirst-quencher. Water’s molecular structure makes it uniquely capable of dissolving more compounds than any other substance on earth. Water carries the dissolved minerals and food our planet needs to create and supply the entire food chain of life. (See Water you thinking?). Water is the only substance in nature present in all three forms – liquid, solid, and vapor. We all know that no matter how badly we cook, we just can’t burn water. Amazing as it is, whatever we cook in water cannot burn either. Water boils and remains at 212° no matter how hot the fire we put it in. The steam generated by boiling water powered the entire industrial revolution and moved freight via steam locomotive; today we still use it to create hydro power to light our cities. For centuries water’s solid form was our means of keeping things cold, and our lemonade just wouldn’t be the same without it.
We bathe in water, wash our clothes, dishes, houses, trucks, dogs, and some daring individuals even wash their cats with water. Truth is, we wash and rinse away some pretty disgusting things with water. I have helped a dairy farmer rinse out his milking barn after the morning milking with the smell of liquid waste filling the air as the morning’s collection of cow patties was reduced to a stream of yellow-green liquid.
Our planet was designed with the means of removing the waste from the water – in previous millennia, an abundance of marshes acted as the catch basins which did the same job our water-treatment plants do today. The contaminants in our water would first settle out, and through the course of time, natural processes would break down the waste. As the excess water slowly percolated into the earth’s biofilter and ran through the underground gravel filter, fresh drinking water was available to all who dug a well. Water is remarkable in that it does not stay dirty.
Another way water gets purified is evaporation. I have waded through some very stagnant pools of trapped water in rivers one week, only to find the pools completely dried up the next. All the smelly contaminant was left behind as the water turned to vapor in its own self-cleaning cycle. What an incredible, self-renewing resource.
But water is most distinct in nature in its unique response to cooling. Virtually every other substance on the planet reacts to cooling by becoming more dense (molecules more tightly packed together), and to a point water reacts the same way. We all know that “cold falls” or in terms of water, colder water sinks. But water is unique in that this process reverses itself at 4°C (40°F). We are stymied as to how water does this, but blessed by it just the same. If water continued to sink as it cooled, lakes would freeze clear to the bottom! Life would not survive the winter. But ice is a very good insulator. Eskimos have survived for thousands of years protected from the bitter cold by ice. And as the ice on lakes and ponds gets thicker with the deepening winter, aquatic life is protected in the same way.
We try to explain the miracle of water in numerous scientific ways…personally I find a more practical explanation to be easier to accept. Water is the only substance of its kind for a reason… It was created to bring and sustain life on our planet.