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Water is one of the most important and abundant inorganic compound in

all living organisms.

Human Cell 80% water

Whole Human body Over 60% water

Essential part of metabolic processes

Metabolism = Anabolism + Catabolism
Anabolism: H2O
Smaller molecules Larger Molecules ( Starches, triglycerides)
(Energy requiring
chemical reactions)
Catabolism: H2O
Larger Molecules Smaller molecules (Glucose, fatty acids)
Water is vital to microorganisms.

Water is central to photosynthesis and respiration.

Sunlight (Photosynthesis)


Fig 1: Overview of Photosynthesis

and Respiration. Water (at right),
together with carbon dioxide (CO2),
form oxygen and organic compounds
(at left), which can be respired to
water and (CO2).
Water is central to acid-base neutrality and enzyme function.

For example, Antacids are stomach acid neutralizers

Stomach Acid (HCl) Water + Aluminum Chloride
By Aluminum hydroxide

Water play a major role in the evolution of biological systems.

Water as a constituent in different living organisms:

Organism Water (%)

Escherichia coli 70%

Human Body 60% -70%

Plant body Upto 90%

Jelly fish 94%-98%

Properties of Water
Water is a chemical substance with chemical formula H2O: one molecule of
water has two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to a single oxygen atom .

Fig: A water molecule

Water appears in nature in all three

common states of matter and may take
many different forms on earth: water vapor
and clouds in the sky; sea water and
icebergs in the polar oceans; glaciers and
river in the mountains and the liquid
aquifers in the ground.
Water is tasteless, odorless and is liquid at room temperature and pressure.

Water (liquid) Colorless

Ice (Solid) Colorless
Water vapor (gas) Invisible

Water is transparent and

thus aquatic plants can live
within the water because
sunlight can reach them.
Biological significance of water
Two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen gives water a relative
molecular mass of 18.
Water is liquid because it’s molecules are ‘sticky’ – they cling to each

Fig: Water is a polar molecule: it has distinct areas of positive

and negative charge
Water is a polar molecule:
In water molecule, the region around the oxygen atom has a slight
negative charge, while the two hydrogen atoms have a slight positive
charge. Molecules with different areas of positive and negative charge are
said to be a polar molecule .

Hydrogen bonds between water

Attractive forces exist
between water molecules: the positive
charge on the hydrogen atoms of one
molecule attracts the negative charge
on the oxygen atoms of another
molecule. These attractive forces are
called hydrogen bonds( as shown in
figure). Many of the unique properties
of water are due to this hydrogen
Fig. Model of hydrogen bonds between
molecules of water
Water as a solvent
Water is an excellent solvent. The polarity of water allows molecules of
many different substances to separate and become surrounded by water
molecules. _
+ +
O + +








+ +

+ +
(a) O (b)

Fig: How water act as a solvent for sodium chloride

a) The positively charged sodium ion (Na+) is attracted to the negative part of the water molecule.
b) The negatively charged chloride ion (Cl-) is attracted to the positive part of the water molecule. In
the presence of water molecules, the bonds between the Na+ and Cl- are disrupted and the NaCl
dissolves in the water.
How water acts as a
solvent for sodium
chloride (NaCI): (a) The
positively charged sodium ion
(Na+) is attracted to the negative
part of the water molecule. (b)
The negatively charged chloride
ion (CI-) is attracted to the
positive part of the water
molecule. In the presence of
water molecules. the bonds
between the Na+ and CI- are
disrupted, and the NaCI
dissolves in the water.
Majority of the cells chemical reactions take place in aqueous solutions.

Water acts as a transport medium as in the blood, lymphatic and excretory

systems, the alimentary canal and in xylem and phloem.

High heat capacity of water

The heat capacity of water is the amount of heat required to raise the
temperature of 1Kg of water by 10C.

A large increase in heat energy results in a relatively small rise in

temperature of water.

Hydrogen bond restrict the movement of water molecules; therefore

more energy is needed to break them (‘overcoming the stickiness’).
For this reason, water is good at maintaining its temperature
irrespective of fluctuations in the temperature of surrounding environment.

Keep temperature constant

Ideal for animal
High thermal capacity of water
and plant life
Density and freezing property of water
Drop of temperature
Most liquids Volume / Density

In case of water, reverse is true; that is

Volume / Density

As a result, ice has fewer molecules than an equal volume of liquid water and
is less dense than liquid water.

For this reason, ice floats and can serve as an insulating layer on the surfaces
of lakes and streams that harbor living organisms.

Ice forms at the surface first, then at the bottom because, the surface water
has a lower temperature compared to the water at the bottom layer and is less
dense than the slightly warmer water lower down.
In this way, organisms which live towards the bottom of fresh water lakes are
therefore protected from freezing.

Water below 40C layer : temperature Circulation in water

• Nutrient cycling
• Colonization of water to
greater depth
Acids, bases, pH and buffers
A hydrogen atom consists of one electron and one proton.

Loss of electron Proton or, a hydrogen ion, H+

An acid is a substance which can act as a proton donor.

An acid is defined as a substance which ionizes in water to give H+ ions as
the cation (positive ion).

A strong acid Hydrochloric acid (undergoes almost complete dissociation)

HCl H+ + Cl-
A weak acid Acetic acid (a small proportion of the acid dissociates to give
hydrogen ions)


• Strong Acid = pH
• High in H+ ions
• Lower number of
OH- ions
• Substance that can accept protons, so they can raise the
pH of fluids and make them basic, or alkaline.

Examples: NaOH, KOH etc

• Strong Base = pH 11
– 14
• High in OH-ions
• Lower in number of
H+ ions

A salt is a substance in which replaceable hydrogen of an acid

has been partly or completely replaced by a metal.
For example, Sodium Chloride (NaCl) where the hydrogen atom of
hydrochloric acid has been replaced by an atom of sodium.

HCl + NaOH NaCl + H 2O

Acids, Bases and Salts

a) In water, Hydrochloric acid (HCl) dissociates into H+ and Cl-.

b) Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) a base, dissociates into OH- and Na+ in water.
c) In water, Table salt (NaCl) dissociates into positive ion (Na+) and negative
ion (Cl-), neither of which are H+ or OH-.
• pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in
a solution.
The pH is defined as the negative logarithm to the base 10 of the
hydrogen ion concentration; determined in moles per liter [H+].
Pure water contains 1x107 moles of hydrogen ions per liter. The
pH of water is therefore,
pH = -log1010-7 = 7
 pH = 7 : A neutral solution (H+ and OH- are equal)
 pH < 7 : an acidic solution (H+ concentration> OH- concentration)
 pH > 7 : an alkaline solution (OH- concentration > H+ concentration)

The pH scale ranges from 0 - 14

A change of one whole number represents a tenfold change from the

previous concentration.
a solution of pH 1 has 10 times more H+ than a solution of pH 2
and 100 times more H+ ions than a solution of pH 3.
pH scale
The pHs of common substances:

Approximate pH Common Examples

Stomach acid (HCl),
Strong Acids 0-2
battery acid (H2SO4)
Weak Acids 3-6 Lemon juice, vinegar
Neutral 7 Pure water
Weak Bases 8-11 Bicarbonate solution

Strong Bases 12-14 Solutions of NaOH, KOH

Human blood pH is 7.4 – Mild Basic

Water pH is 7.0 -- Neutral
Gastric juice pH is 2.0 --- Strong acid
Buffers Chemical reactions
Takes up Excretes
Living organisms
nutrients waste

Balance of acids and bases change

Change of pH

Living organisms overcome this adverse effect by means of pH buffers

A buffer solution is a solution containing a mixture of a weak acid and its

soluble salt. It acts to resist changes in pH. Such changes can be brought
about by dilution or addition of acid or alkali.

Removal of H+ from
Increased acidity More H+ solution
Free anion (negative ion)
from salt
Drop in pH
Decrease in acidity Tendency to release
hydrogen ions

Thus buffer solution tends to maintain a constant, balanced

hydrogen ion concentration


NaHCO3 Na+ + HCO3 -

Sodium hydrogen carbonate Sodium ion Hydrogen carbonate ion

HCO3 - + H+ H2CO3
Hydrogen carbonate ion Hydrogen Ion
(removal of hydrogen
Carbonic acid
ions from the solution)

Lowering solution’s acidity

At increased alkalinity,
HCO3 - + OH- H2O
CO32- +
Hydrogen carbonate ion (removal of Hydroxyl
Lowering solution’s ions from the solution)
The difference in concentration of a substance between two areas is called a
concentration gradient. Particles move down a concentration gradient by
diffusion, until they are spread evenly. Diffusion is a passive process: it
requires no input of energy.
Examples of diffusion across concentration gradients in organism:

Place Particles move From To

Gut Digested Gut cavity Blood in capillary of villus

Food products

Lungs Oxygen Alveolar air space Blood circulating

around the lungs
Diffusion in Air
Diffusion in water
What affects the rate of diffusion?

• Concentration gradient: The greater the difference in the

concentration of a substance in two areas, the faster the
rate of diffusion

The rate of diffusion is

directly proportional to
the concentration
Small particles tend to diffuse faster than larger ones
The larger the surface area the higher the rate of diffusion
(e.g. in gases diffusing into/out of leaves)
Sea water, because of the salt it
contains, is about three times
more concentrated than human
blood. If someone who is already
dehydrating is desperate enough
to drink sea water, the salt causes
water to move out of their blood
and into their stomach by osmosis
causing further dehydration. So
victims of ship wreckers can die of
dehydration even though they are
surrounded by water.
Osmosis is the
diffusion of water. It is the net
movement of solvent (water)
molecules from a region of their
higher concentration to a region
of their lower concentration,
through a partially permeable