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Why water is one of the strangest things in the universe

By May 7, 2019October 17th, 2023FinGlobal

Why water is one of the strangest things in the universe

May 7, 2019

In the words of W.H. Auden “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”.  We all know that water is critical for sustaining life on earth. A person can live approximately a month without food, but only one week without water. The importance of water has become a global focus as countries around the world are experiencing droughts and a decline in their water supplies. In this article we are going to explore some of the strange facts about this substance that is so critical to life.


Interesting facts about water


Water is sticky

Water molecules love to stick to things – especially each other. This is why water has a large surface tension and if you carefully fill a glass of water beyond its rim, the water will actually hold its shape beyond the rim of the glass before gravity causes it to overflow. The stickiness of water is the only reason that water is a liquid at room temperature – it should actually be a gas when you compare it to other similar molecules like hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and ammonia (NH3), which are both gases at room temperature.


Water comes from out of space

All water arrived on the planet around 4.5 and 3.8 billion years ago in comets and asteroids. Today 97% of water is salty and only 1% is available as fresh drinking water. There is ice on the poles of the moon and on the poles of Mars and Mercury.


The water levels in your body vary

When you are a foetus in the womb, your body consists of around 95% water, by the time you are born this has dropped to 77% and by the time you are an adult, this has dropped even further with a 70kg person having around 42 litres of water in their body. When you are younger you also need more water than when you are older and children in the first six months of life consume seven times more water per kilogram than the average adult.


Hot water freezes faster than cold water

Unlike most other liquids, water expands around 9% when it freezes.


If you have ever poured hot water on a freezing car windscreen in winter you might quickly discover this fact. The fact that hot water freezes faster is known as the Mpemba Effect. Cold water is also heavier than hot water – at 4 degrees Celsius, water has its maximum density.


Water is denser than oil

The molecules that make up oil are larger than those that make up water, but this means they cannot pack as tightly together which means they take up less space per unit, resulting in oil being less dense than water.


Water can intoxicate you

If you drink too much water in a short time, you can cause the levels of sodium in your blood to drop too low – which can be fatal!


The world is running out of fresh water

If we decreased the entire world’s water to fit into a 4-litre jug, the fresh water available for us to consume would only take up one teaspoon and the amount of usable fresh water that is easily accessible is declining due to:

  • The increased food requirements of a growing population
  • Increased energy requirements of a growing population
  • Increased frequency of droughts, which are diminishing fresh water supplies
  • In many parts of the world groundwater is being pumped out and used faster than it is being replenished
  • Inadequate water infrastructure is resulting in millions of litres of fresh water being lost
To make a difference to the decline in fresh water supplies, try and repair all water leaks in your home and use your fresh water wisely. Recycling grey water can go a long way to reducing our water consumption as the City of Cape Town proved to the world when it more than halved its water consumption during the drought in 2018.



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