Updated: Apr 28, 2022
A Deep Dive Into Earth’s Most Seminal Substance
Water, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939)
Anyone who has undertaken a serious study of water can attest that full consideration of this magical substance warrants the adage “the further we look, the less we know”.
All water is not the same. Water is dynamic, it can be energized and enhanced, some call it "living water", others "structured water". Nevertheless, water can be activated.
The story of water is a fascinating exercise in humbling yourself to the power and majesty of the natural world, and presents us with important tools for impriving hydration and human health.
There may be no discussion of greater importance for the future of humanity.
Water is Earth’s most valuable resource. Goethe said, “Water sustains all.”
We have one word for it, yet every time we experience water it is never the same. Water is obvious, but mostly misunderstood. Water is invisible, yet a part of every moment of our existence. Major religions revere water, and at the same time describe it destroying the Earth in great floods. Water floated the Titanic, and sunk her at the same time. Water can be everywhere and nowhere all at once, showing up in the dew of the morning and reappearing as a fog rolling through the hills at dusk.
Water expresses elegance in the grace of a babbling brook, great power in the force of a surging whirlpool or an epic surfing wave at Mavericks, and devastating destruction as a tsunami or a 100-year deluge. Water is unassuming, but alive with energy; seemingly inert, but the personification of vitality. Water is a riddle of life and, on balance, may be the most miraculous and, at the same time, disrespected substance on Earth.
With water, words fail us, yet it is intimately infused into our language. As they say, “A rising tide raises all ships”. We “go with the flow” when we cooperate, or “blow off steam” when we get upset. We “freeze up” when we get nervous, and “make a splash” when we become influential. Inexperience is described as being “wet behind the ears” and being in debt is described as being “underwater”. We say these things without even thinking about them, and these phrases represent a mere “drop in the bucket” of the ways that water is infused into human culture.
Water is life. It is the substance we look for to seek the potential for living organisms on other planets. Water is the sea that our spirit swims in through our body to generate the ideas that manifest the physical world we inhabit. In the words of the poet Wallace Stevens, “Human nature is like water, it takes the shape of its container.”
Let’s put it this way, water is much more than just wet. Given its significance you would think there are institutes dedicated to studying water, but there are few. In fact, with water, the more we discover, the more questions get raised. As D.H. Lawrence said in his book The Third Thing, “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes it water. And nobody knows what that is.”
Philip Ball, author of H2O: A Biography of Water puts it this way, “No one really understands water. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but the stuff that covers two-thirds of our planet is still a mystery. Worse, the more we look, the more the problems accumulate: new techniques probing deeper into the molecular architecture of liquid water are throwing up more puzzles.”
The character of water is one of grace under pressure, constantly seeking its own level without prejudice, but with a beautiful intention that defines deliberate action. Like Bruce Lee says, “Empty your mind, be formless, be shapeless…like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
Misunderstood and flowing without form, many are humbled, some are awed, but most in the modern world are unaware of the wonders of water. Michael Pollan told the story of plants manipulating human behavior as a means of expressing themselves in his book The Botany of Desire, and the same can be said for water. Tom Robbins personifies water in his book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, “Human beings were invented by water as a device for transporting itself from one place to another.”
For such a common substance, it turns out we retain a surprisingly limited collective understanding of the origins, abilities, and secrets of water. Where does water come from? What is water, anyway?
The truth on all accounts is that we experience water more than we understand it, and like many things of natural origin water in its functional sense lacks a true definition. The best literal guess of its origin on Earth is from stony meteorites that commonly strike called “carbonaceous chondrite”; but the truth is a genuine mystery.
Throughout human history, water was recognized to be one of the four classical elements, along with air, earth, and fire. It was in 1781 that chemist Antoine Lavoisier ran an electrical current through water and realized that it gives off two gases — hydrogen and oxygen. Gay-Lussac and von Humboldt first defined the essential nature of the water molecule not far after this in the early 1800’s to the extent that we now have a good understanding of the fine architecture of waters two hydrogens and single oxygen that most are familiar with from textbooks. But you may be surprised to discover that modern popular science with all of its authority, expertise, and experience has never actually seen a water molecule. Despite it being the most common solvent used for experimentation in science, the true nature of water escapes deductive scientific explanation.
Of course, water molecules are incredibly small. For reference, the average snow crystal contains about 10 quintillion (10 followed by 18 zeroes) water molecules. But the significance of water is not just found in the make-up of a single molecule, but in how it works collectively and with other substances.
Water shows us its secrets, but defies definition. For instance, we know that no two snowflakes are the same. Every snowflake is formed in a unique space and time, just like the uniqueness expressed in the conception of human beings. Even identical twins express minor but definite differences. Life is infinitely more complex and so much richer than we give it credit.
Water expresses over seventy anomalies that befuddle the mighty scientific method that demands strict objective replication. Water scoffs at such rigidity, and never repeats itself. In the words of Heraclitus, one of the original Greek philosophers, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Water is so all encompassing that we can take it for granted, like the fish not recognizing that it lives under water. Water is described as beyond science, as expressed in the words of the French biologist Fred Vles, “Biology is for the most part the science of water”; or the words of the father of modern biochemistry Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who said, “Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.”
We owe our very existence to the anomalies of water. Due to its distinctive molecular structure water exhibits its greatest density and carrying capacity at 39.2°F with the density actually decreasing below this temperature. This is why ice floats on liquid water, which is relatively unique in Nature, and quite significant. Imagine if water froze from the bottom up, would life have survived ice ages on the bottom of solid lakes?
Did you know that there are at least nine different kinds of ice? Water has an unusually high melting and boiling point compared to other materials. In some cases, hot water freezes faster than cold water. It’s called the Mpemba effect.
Water has a high viscosity, or resistance, relative to other liquids. This also allows it to retain heat to help regulate our weather and be a great facilitator of sound waves. True to its mystery, pure water is actually an insulator, but becomes a capable conductor only relative to the ions that it holds. In other words, water gains its identity based on what it is not.
Almost nothing behaves the way expected when it comes to water, pressure actually reduces ices melting point and thermal conductivity, and actually causes water molecules to move further away from each other. This makes no “scientific” sense, but so it is with water.
The strangeness of water is a result of its polarity, or the expression of both a positively (+) and negatively (-) charged side to its molecule, resulting in the familiar V shape chemical structure. The polarity of water creates a “dipole moment” that makes it capable of combining with and dissolving almost anything, giving it the title of the “universal solvent”.
Because water is a polar molecule and opposite charges attract, water hugs itself through a process called “hydrogen bonding”. One consequence of hydrogen bonding is capillary action, which was actually the subject of Albert Einstein’s first scientific paper. With capillary action water molecules attract one another so strongly that they defy the force of gravity, such as in chromatography experiments where water pulls colors apart as it travels up a paper towel, or in a hydroponic system where the wicking action of capillary mats deliver water to plants without pumps.
The phenomenon of hydrogen bonding can also be seen in formation of clouds, the meniscus in a glass of water, or the surface tension created that allows water striders to skate on still water, inhabiting a unique ecosystem called a neuston.
The promiscuity of water makes it near impossible to isolate as pure H2O, which only exists in concept and maybe a vacuum. We construct tenuous certainty around Mother Nature and her ability to support life that fool us in our brilliance, that result in false security around the expertise of well-meaning people using powerful authority and methods that rip apart the whole to study the parts, parts that can no longer speak to one another in a way that is alive. We seek the truth in the dark, and we fail from the start, but it is not for a lack of trying.
In his 2013 book The Fourth Phase of Water Dr. Gerald Pollack of the University of Washington describes the tribulations of the history of water research in great detail. The Russian discovery of “polywater” in the 1960’s and later the French foray into homeopathy both made focused campaigns to document the mysterious nature of water in published research but were rebuked in the name of “science”.
The elemental ionic substance that water collects translates to “contamination” in the realm of popular science, resulting in generational research never reaching the light of the collective day. This universality by which water can dissolve and hold substance results in it being the absolute worst experimental control on Earth, and has halted almost every professional inquiry into the mysteries of water since the turn of the twentieth century.
To highlight the extreme resistance of popular science towards water, in 1988 John Maddox (1925–2009), the editor of the famous scientific journal Nature issued a response to the research submitted by the renowned scientist Jacques Benveniste (1935–2004) proving the merits of homeopathy that was first developed by Samuel Hahneman (1755–1843). Benveniste’s results showing efficacy for homeopathy were in complete contradiction with generally accepted scientific views, and Maddox responded, “Our mind is not as so much closed as not ready to change the idea of how modern science is constructed.”
Despite the intense opposition of the status quo towards paradigm changing discovery, and in light of the paradox of knowing so little about something so familiar, water science is moving forward.
For some time water has been known to exist as two distinct “isomers” (or types with a dissimilar arrangement of atoms in the molecule) based on their differing properties at the atomic level, but recently a team of researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland successfully isolated two different forms of water molecules for the first time. Known as “ortho-water” if the two hydrogen atoms in the molecule are spinning in the same direction, and “para-water” if they are spinning in different direction; the researchers succeeded in separating the two different forms of water using electric fields and documented how they reacted with ultracold diazenylium ions (a form of nitrogen). Fascinating stuff.
Water works on a macro-scale creating structures like stalagmites or the Grand Canyon, and also on the micro-scale dissolving the tiniest of substance, and not always in our favor. Water holds things in a way to make them imperceptible, like an invisibility cloak that prevents us from seeing the substances held within. We are mesmerized by its uniformity, and at the same time can be collectively unaware of its potential for toxicity.
We see this in the water tragedy of Flint, Michigan and in other communities the world over where the people who cannot afford to protect themselves from this stealthy onslaught are crippled and at the mercy of imperceptible poison. Herein is the threat of runoff from conventional agriculture and artificial lawn care, and public policies like water fluoridation and chlorination.
We see this in the water crisis in my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. We live at the end of the Cape Fear River and withstand a tremendous influx of waste from animal agriculture. There are more pigs than people in our state, with most of them localted in our area of Southestern NC. On top of this we recently experienced a coal ash pollution issue that made headline news from Duke Power, and are now going through a battle with Chemours, a DuPont spin-off, from a chemical called GenX. GenX is a member of a family of chemical compounds know as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are man-made and have broad uses in commercial products such as food packaging, nonstick coatings, and firefighting foam. PFAS chemicals are sinister in their ability to bypass filtration and extremely controversial.
Notwithstanding its objectivity, water can be our best friend and also our worst enemy. Waters ability to pick stuff up and carry it around includes delivering oxygen and nutrition inside of living cells, as well as carrying away the toxins. Dr. Peter Agre (1949-present) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2003 for the discovery of the mechanism by which cells “drink” water. He called them “aquaporins”, spiral protein channels that exist in microbes, plants, and people that regulate the cellular water cycle. In the human body alone, at least eleven different variants have been found.
It turns out that the molecular structure of water determines a cells ability to access an adequate supply. Basically, aquaporins drink water one molecule at a time, meaning, in simple terms, if the structure and surface tension of water is too strong it creates clustering that will not allow water to penetrate cells.
A good rule of thumb for adequate hydration is drinking half your weight in ounces daily. When water is not in a natural and energized state even those following this rule of thumb can be medically dehydrated when water is not in a structure that can be adequately utilized by life. The water is simply irrigating our kidneys, not hydrating our cells. Being that cells are the smallest structural and functional unit of living organisms, this is critically important and the vital point of hydration.
Because the vast majority of the civilized human population is drinking “deadened” and adulterated water, it is a safe bet to assume that the majority of this human population is dehydrated. How this is contributing to the marked rise in human disease is unknown; but one thing is for sure, in order to get the best from water we must keep our wits about us.
The same hydration principle applies in agriculture with plant cells. The potential for “structuring” water for use in human hydration and agriculture are enormous. In greenhouse applications water that has been conditioned using implosion technology and beneficial frequencies has resulted in up to a 40% reduction in water use. I have witnessed this influence directly in my work as an agricultural consultant. This has tremendous implications for farm profitability, on many farms water is the most expensive line item.
And while we cannot live long without water, we are also water producers. Every time our body breaks down a molecule of glucose, we produce six molecules of water, a reaction that takes place in the typical human body about six septillion (6 followed by 24 zeroes) times per day. Even so, we still don’t produce enough water to meet our own needs.
There can be no overstatement when it comes to water, rarely, if ever, do we give water the respect it deserves in regards to life and health. For most in the modern world it is an unconscious substance towards which we live a passive and filtered existence. We prove this every time we rely on the purification in our public water supply, invest in a water filter, or make the decision to purchase a bottle of drinking water.
Those who understand the potential of water and the dangers of taking good water for granted use filtration technology such as reverse osmosis (RO) that removes 99% of what water holds, but it is important to consider adding something back to re-mineralize. When purified, water seeks to fill its electrical potential and can extract nutrients from the body over time.
It was explained to me by a doctor years ago in my former garden center that when RO technology was implemented in Vietnam that they deduced many medical afflictions being experienced by the troops back to the purity of the water because it was leaching minerals from the body. This is the reason it is preferable to drink “spring water” rather than “distilled water”.
Our textbooks invite us to consider how water transpires in plants, evaporates, condenses in clouds, and precipitates back down as rain; but rarely does the story go below the ground. Upon contemplation it becomes obvious that there is not enough rain on the top of a mountain to feed a perpetual stream running down it. How does a river constantly flow? Much of the source water comes from the ground and is pumped up and offered when mature and ready for use in the ecosystem.
The rejuvenating magic of spring water is taken to another level in some of the revered natural springs on Earth such as the Blue Lagoon in Iceland or The Omni Homestead in Virginia built in 1761 where Thomas Jefferson soaked to relieve his rheumatism. Due to ideal natural conditions the maturity and mineralization of these waters is superior and even capable of acting in therapeutic ways.
Callum Coats in his book on the life and work of the great Viktor Schauberger (1885–1958) called Living Energies describes water as being “aggressive” and “immature” in its pure state, and details the total water cycle in great detail. Those in the know on how this works actually “make” their own drinking water. My family purchases RO water from the local food Co-op then we add back natural minerals from sea salts and use crystals to positively influence the molecular structure. Some even pay top dollar for “raw” water harvested from natural springs that offer water that has been matured by the Earth in the completion of the total water cycle.
The amount of water flowing on Earth is staggering. The Mississippi River discharges 4,435,970 gallons of water per second into the Gulf of Mexico, but the largest river by discharge is the Amazon at an impressive 55,211,956 gallons per second. An Olympic size pool contains 658,285 gallons for reference. Mature oak trees can transpire 40,000 gallons of water per year. And the average human drinks roughly 16,000 gallons of water in a lifetime!
This makes water big business. If you do the math, bottled water in many cases costs far more than the price per gallon of gasoline. At the movie theatre a bottle of water the size of a quart can cost $5, making it the rough equivalent $20 per gallon! How can it be that something which perpetually falls from the sky costs more than something finite like oil that we are forced to drill from the ground?
Water is abundant, yet scarce, with water security issues affecting every continent on Earth. Water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of the population increase in the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered, especially in arid regions.
According to the FAO, around 2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of water scarcity. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. So almost half the world does not have access to clean water, or has to walk great distance to get it. Most people in the world rely on an average of 5 liters of water per day. To put that into perspective, in the United States, on average, we use that much water every time we flush the toilet.
The modern world is only just beginning to feel the economic and societal pressures of peak water and water security. Business moguls are buying up aquifers and water rights, cities are privatizing their water supplies under corporations that ban rain barrels because they have contracts that say they own the water before it falls. The UN even predicts the wars of the future will be waged over water.
There’s something like 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons (326 million trillion gallons) of water found on planet Earth. About 70% of the planet is covered in ocean and almost 98% of the water on the planet is in the oceans. About 2% of Earth’s water is fresh, but 1.6% of this fresh water is locked up in the polar ice caps and glaciers. Another 0.36% is found underground in aquifers and wells. Only about 0.04% percent of the planet’s total water supply is found in lakes and rivers.
Despite Earth being the “water planet”, recent data tells us that water is the third most abundant substance in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. In 2011 enormous reservoirs of water were found in space that amount to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s oceans.
Water is involved in literally everything. To create 1 ton of steel it takes 300 tons of water. It takes an average of 460 gallons of water to make a ¼ lbs of hamburger. A nuclear power plant requires 30 million gallons of water to cool its reactors…every hour.
California’s drought-stricken Central Valley churns out 80% of the globe’s almonds, and since each nut takes a gallon of water to produce, they account for close to 10% of the state’s annual agricultural water use — or more than what the entire population of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. For the details on this harrowing situation watch the Netflix documentary Water & Power: A California Heist or read THIS amazing article titled A Kingdom From Dust documenting the shady business practice of Stewart Resnick, the largest farmer in the United States.
In fact, one of the most important parts of food is water. Not only is it required for plants to grow, but upwards of 95% of plants and 75% of the human body are comprised of water. It is possible to survive for weeks, even months, without food; but without water we can last only days. Life does not live without water.