The Science Behind: The color of water
As a child, I always wondered what color water was. Some said it was blue, others said it was transparent, and some even said that it was white! How is it possible that there are so many different opinions? Is water really colorless? Does its color change? If it does change, when and why?
Let’s explore and find the answers to our questions…
The color of water depends on a number of factors. One of them is the amount of water present. The color ranges from transparent to deep blue based on if there is just a glass of water or a whole sea of it. There are two reasons for this: One, huge bodies of water often reflect the sky which is blue. Two, because of the scattering of light. Light scatters (moves off its originally straight path) when it passes through the air, thus making the water below the air look blue.
Now you know why lakes and oceans appear blue!
Another factor that can change the color of water is how much pollution there is in or near the water. If water dissolves pollutants from the air surrounding it, its color can change. Polluted water looks browner/greener than unpolluted water. This is one of the reasons that water sometimes appears green.
Yet another factor that changes the color of the water is the chemicals in it. One of the reasons lakes and seas can look green is because of the number of chemicals it has dissolved. The chemicals in seawater aren’t always pollutants. Magnesium, sodium, and potassium are three non-pollutant chemicals commonly found in seawater. Mixtures of chemicals can change the properties of water (for example, food coloring is a mixture of many chemicals that changes the color of water).
So, is there any real color of water? Well, yes. Science has shown that the blue color of the water is intrinsic- meaning natural- property. After removing all chemicals and pollutants from water (making it pure), it is still tinted light blue. The reason water sometimes appears other colors is because of the scattering of light, dissolved chemicals, and nearby pollution.
Until next time...
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