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Engineering LibreTexts

8.1: Introduction

  • Page ID
  • “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting”

    Why do scientists spend time looking for water on other planets? Why is water so important? It is because water is essential for life as we know it. Water is one of the more abundant molecules and the one most critical to life on Earth. Approximately 60–70 percent of the human body is made up of water. Without it, life as we know it simply would not exist. The quotation above, which has been attributed to Mark Twain, suggested (by the quote above) that water was extremely important. In recent years, we have seen a rise in conflicts and dispute about water. Fortunately, most of the conflicts have ended up in the courts instead of the battlefields. This chapter is devoted to this precious resource that sustains our planet and its living things.

    Water is an important commodity for life on Earth and is something we all need in our daily activities. It is referred to by many people as the “essence of life”, “blue gold” and “more precious than oil”. What makes water so important is its unique and special properties. These special properties of water include water’s high heat capacity and heat of vaporization, its ability to dissolve numerous polar molecules, its cohesive and adhesive properties, and its dissociation into ions that leads to the generation of pH. Understanding these characteristics helps us understand and appreciate its importance in maintaining life on Earth. Before we discuss these properties, we will review the molecular structure of water, which gives rise to these special properties.