Why Not Water?




A lot of our content focuses around proper times and places to use water, to get more water or cleaner water, or how water affects the environment. Contrary to what you might think if you’re a regular reader, not everything revolved around water. Also, all water is not created equal. Even for many instances in which regular water sounds like a reasonable resource, it may not be the best option to resolve an issue. There can also be extenuating circumstances which make water helpful in fixing a problem, but not the primary source of resolution. This week we’re going to explore situations in which water seems like a problem solver but it is either unhelpful or only helpful in certain capacities.

Grease Fire

Anyone who has ever poured water on a grease fire can tell you exactly how disastrous the outcome can be. It’s a simple case of thermodynamics. Oil boils at a higher temperature than water does. Oil is also much less dense than water. Therefore, when oil is boiling and water comes into contact with it, the water sits below the oil and very quickly turns to steam. This steam then pushes up from underneath the hot oil creating almost a fountain effect. When the oil is on fire, the water pushes the flaming oil into the air from underneath instead of sitting on top of it and putting out the flames as one would hope. This is why most moms teach their children to smother a grease fire with baking soda or a towel instead of trying to douse it with fire.

Forest Fire

Forest fires are very rarely put out with water. For one, water is much harder to transport than sand. This is because water is both heavy and very mobile within its container. The sloshing back and forth make it difficult to put in a plane or helicopter to drop from above. For this and other reasons, slurry is typically used to fight a forest fire from above. Slurry is a mixture of mostly water and fertilizer that is used as a flame retardant covering which smothers the fire. Near waterways such as lakes and rivers, however, water is dropped instead of slurry to discourage contamination of the water source.

IV fluid

IV Fluid

Yes, this is mostly water. However, many people don’t realize that their standard purified water is not actually what goes into an IV solution. For most people using an IV to prevent dehydration, the bag actually contains a saline solution: aka salt water. Using salt water instead of purified water actually has added benefits for those using an IV. Saline can help treat imbalances in electrolyte levels better than purified water. This is because the salt levels in a saline bag more closely mimic the natural state of sodium in the bloodstream; therefore, saline is a better option for an IV bag than regular purified water.

IV fluid

Nasal Irrigation

Products like the Neti Pot are purported miracle workers for those suffering from allergies and nasal congestion. However, traditional tap water can do more harm than good. There are plenty of cases in which users have not boiled tap water to rid it of impurities first and ended up with an even more severe infection than they had originally. Some people have even suffered a brain infection due to impure water used in nasal irrigation. In this case, only purified water labelled “sterile” or “distilled” or tap water which has been boiled for at least 3-5 minutes should be used.

In all of these instances, water in and of itself is not the best answer. Always take proper safety precautions when using water for a serious situation.