Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Hydrology and Lakes

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 762-765

Water: Substance and solvent

  • Donald Langmur
  • , H. L. Barnes


Water, present in the geological environment as solid, liquid, vapor and supercritical fluid, is one of the most important components of Earth's fluid envelope. Without water and its special properties, Earth would be a vastly different planet in many ways. Water plays critical roles in atmospheric processes, including the absorption of radiant energy and the redistribution of energy through weather mechanisms, thus fundamentally influencing climate. In the lithosphere, water serves as an essential solvent and transport medium for many of the elements, a modifier of rock physical properties, and a lubricant for tectonic processes. The biosphere also depends on water for its solvent properties and, in photosynthesis, as an electron-donating nutrient.

The two protons of each water molecule (molecular weight, 18.015) are deeply embedded in the oxygen atom as shown in Figure W33. Ice, up to about 2 kbar, has an open structure of tetrahedrally coordinated H2O molecules, wi ...

This is an excerpt from the content