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Water is one of the the most important chemical compounds because no living creature can survive without it. More than half of the weight of most organisms is due to water. [1]

Water is an odorless, tasteless, colorless liquid. When people describe the flavor of water they are referring to impurities found in it (see mineral water, bottled water).

The chemical formula for water is H2O, two hydrogen and one oxygen atom. This can be read as "hydrogen oxide", such usage is rare and potentially misleading (see DHMO).

The shape of the water molecule is a shallow V, with the oxygen in the middle and having an angle of approximately 105°. The interactions between the atoms result in the oxygen atom having a partly negative charge and the hydrogen atoms having a partly positive charge. Thus the water molecule is a strong electrical dipole, which accounts for some of its properties.

Although we are accustomed to think of the word "solvent" in connection with organic solvents like gasoline or benzene, water is a powerful solvent, a fact that is sometimes overlooked because water is so familiar.

Water, compared to other compounds, has a number of unusual properties, such as expanding rather than contracting when it freezes. As noted by Lawrence Henderson in his 1913 book, The Fitness of the Environment, its ability to support life is directly related to some of these unusual properties.


  1. "... a high fraction of the make up of an organism (50%) usually consists simply of liquid water" Stephen T. Abedon, Ph.D., Ohio State University