Parade Magazine published a question to Marilyn Vos Savant in which the writer asked, “If you had a cubic mile of water in a tank, and you start pumping it at 1000 gallons per minute, how long would it take to empty the tank?” Her answer was it would take over 2,000 years. There are many places on Earth where we have more than a cubic mile of water. The essential question is, “Do we have enough water?” The answer is that if we used what God has given us wisely, we would not have a water problem.
If we have enough water, why is there a water shortage as lakes dry up in California and Arizona? Also, why are people facing water shortages in drought conditions worldwide? God has given us enough water, but we are not doing a good job of distributing it. We can take the minerals from seawater to make fresh water. The energy cost to do that is high, but technology has greatly reduced it from what it used to be.
We have pipelines that carry liquid fossil fuels to enormous distances. If you think that building a water pipeline from the ocean to a destination hundreds of miles away is too expensive, consider how much money humans spend on war and weapons to harm others. It is disappointing to hear and read skeptics blaming God for the suffering involved in water shortages when they result from human ignorance, greed, and politics.
Genesis 2:6 tells us that a mist from the ground watered the planet in the creation process. Verses 10-14 describe four rivers coming from a source that flowed out of Eden. The area of the world where those rivers flow is part of the Fertile Crescent, which has a history of producing vast volumes of grain to provide food for humans and animals. Do we have enough water? The answer is yes. Anywhere on Earth can be an Eden if we merely take care of our planet’s God-given water supplies.
One of the factors that put planet Earth in the so-called “Goldilocks Zone” of our solar system is that it is the correct distance from the Sun for liquid water to exist. Life is not possible without liquid water. Another factor we sometimes overlook is how water affects Earth’s climate.
We are approaching the end of winter with spring on our doorstep in the Northern Hemisphere. One of the familiar features of our cold winter months is ice and snow. Although we grow tired of the cold and the frozen water, the spring melting of snow and ice from mountains supplies essential water for many parts of the world. The changing seasons caused by the tilt of our planet on its axis and the way water affects Earth’s climate are factors of design allowing humans to live over most of the globe.
The Lofoten Islands in Norway are 105 miles (169 km) north of the Arctic Circle. The area is home to more than 24,000 people and has attracted millions of tourists because of its beauty. Even though it is only 1500 miles (2,420 km) from the North Pole, the area enjoys relatively mild temperatures. The warmest temperature ever recorded at the Skrova lighthouse on one of the islands was 86.7 degrees F (30.4 degrees C) in June 1972. The coldest was 4.8 degrees F (-15.1 degrees C) in February 1966. Skrova has what Norwegians call “tropical nights” when the temperature does not fall below 68 degrees F (20 degrees C).
On the other hand, the city of Yakutsk, Siberia, has a population of 336,200 people, and it holds the title of being the coldest city in the world. Some reports say the temperature has dropped to as low as -76 degrees F (-60 degrees C). The surprising thing is that Yakutsk is 280 miles (450 km) SOUTH of the Arctic Circle. That’s 385 miles south of Skrova in the Lofoten Islands. So what makes the difference?
Water largely explains the difference. The North Atlantic Current and the Norwegian Current bring warmer water to the Lofoten Islands. Also, mild low-pressure air from the Atlantic has an open path to blow northward in the winter. By contrast, Yakutsk is landlocked and located in a valley surrounded by mountains. As a result, the cold air settles into the low area and keeps Yakutsk in the freezer.
The highest and lowest temperatures on Earth tend to be in the interior of continents. This is because landmasses heat and cool much more quickly than large bodies of water. Also, landmasses covered by snow and ice reflect the warming radiation from the Sun back into space rather than warming the land.
As we have said before, water makes life possible in many ways. It is also true that water affects Earth’s climate in significant ways. Water shows design precision at the atomic and molecular levels to give it the qualities that life requires. Furthermore, water is abundant on this planet to supply our needs if we use it wisely. We think water is strong evidence of God’s design wisdom and care for His creation.
Without water, life would not be possible. For that reason, astronomers are constantly looking for other locations in the universe where liquid water might exist. Only in such places could there be any hope of finding life. Whether life exists anywhere in the universe outside of planet Earth is a question people have asked for hundreds of years. Scientists still don’t know the answer, but everyone agrees that there could be no life without water.
The water molecule seems very simple. It is H2O–one oxygen atom combined with two hydrogen atoms. However, instead of bonding in a straight line (H-O-H), the two hydrogen atoms are on one side of the water molecule at a 104.5-degree angle from each other. That alignment gives the hydrogen side of the water molecule a partial positive charge, while the other side has a partial negative charge. Because of that, the positive and negative sides of water molecules attract one another and form hydrogen bonds resulting in a network of water molecules.
When water is in the gaseous state, the interaction between molecules is negligible. However, when it is in the solid form of ice, each water molecule forms a bond with four others, creating a lattice that causes ice to be lighter than liquid water. For most substances, the solid state is heavier than the liquid state. This unique property of watercauses ice to float. Additionally, the low thermal conductivity of ice prevents the water below from freezing. If lakes and oceans froze from the bottom up, it would kill all marine life and ultimately all life on Earth.
If water molecules did not form hydrogen bonds, instead of boiling at 100 degrees C, water would boil at -100 degrees C. That would prevent life processes. Furthermore, because there is a 100 degree C difference between water’s melting and boiling points, life is possible in Earth’s wide range of environments. Water has the highest heat of evaporation of any known substance so that it remains liquid up to and even at its boiling point. It also has the second-highest heat capacity of any known substance, allowing its temperature to remain stable during heat fluctuations in the environment. Those qualities of water are also critical for life, meaning that there could be no life without water.
Water’s ability as a solvent makes it essential for the life processes of living cells. Likewise, water’s inability to dissolve oily substances is vital to create a strong “hydophobic effect.” Cell membranes, DNA, RNA, and proteins all contain oil-like regions. If the water in the cells could dissolve them, life would not be possible. In addition, the water molecule can participate in and enable chemical processes such as hydrolysis, reduction, oxidation, and others that are essential in living cells.
The bottom line is that there is no life without water and the fine-tuning of the hydrogen bonding in water molecules. With new scientific discoveries, we see fine-tuning for life in the cosmos and even in the cells of our bodies. Without that fine-tuning, life would not exist, and we would not be here. Accidental coincidences do not explain such incredible precision of design. We think the explanation goes beyond science and points to an intelligent Designer.
We all know that getting dehydrated is not good for our health. What we may not realize is how much water is designed to be part of our human makeup. Even the sound of water has a positive effect on our emotions and health. More important than that, our bodies depend on water. We need both water for living and living water.
Yesterday, we talked about our ability to cool our bodies through sweating. Eccrine glands work inside our cells to produce sweat, and humans have more of those glands than any other animal. When we lose significant amounts of water by sweating, a complex network of hormones and the electrical system that controls our kidneys work together to concentrate our urine.
The necessity of water for living means that we must constantly add water to our bodies, and to do this, we have great flexibility in our diets. In the United States, about 20% of the water we take into our bodies comes from the food we eat. In Japan, that number is around 50%. People get water by eating fruits and drinking milk, which is 87% water.
Humans are more locked into water than we may realize. We all travel by using water as the marker for where we stop. In our culture, it is often rest areas along the highway. In others, it may be desert springs or finding jungle plants that hold water. We spend large amounts of money on the construction of devices to bring water to us. Two thousand years ago, the Romans built a series of aqueducts to move water 16 kilometers to supply 50,000 people in the city of Caesarea. In today’s world, we build enormous pipelines to supply water to places where there are shortages.
When Jesus began to teach, He referred to His message as “living water” (John 4:10). In reality, the only thing more important than the water that sustains our physical lives is the living water that takes us to eternity. Revelation 22 pictures heaven with “..a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the lamb.”
We don’t ordinarily think of donkeys as diggers, especially not as vital to the desert environment. A researcher from Aarhus University in Denmark has made a discovery that shows a special provision God made to use donkeys to provide water for other life forms. Erick Lundgren has documented donkeys digging wells in the desert. In 2014 Lundgren studied feral horses and donkeys and noticed them digging holes deep enough to reach groundwater.
From 2014 to 2018, Lundgren mapped groundwater in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and found that holes dug by donkeys provided 74% of available water for all forms of life in the area. The donkeys seemed to know where to find water, and 57 vertebrate species from migratory songbirds to mountain lions and even a bear came to the donkey wells to drink.
It is fascinating that this is not a local anomaly. Researchers have documented donkeys digging wells in Central Asia, so this action is built into the donkey’s genome. Attempting to make a case for accidental donkey well-digging fails when isolated populations have the same instinctive drive. They use it not only to survive themselves but to benefit an entire ecosystem.
Research into donkeys digging wells shows that the donkeys know where to dig because the digging is not random. The wells dug by donkeys decreased the distance between water sources to an average of 843 meters, making essential water available to more animals with less tension. We suggest this is a beautiful example of God’s design allowing animals to live in environments that would seem unlikely to support life.
A skeptic recently complained that mountains are a mistake. “They block travel, cause avalanches, create deserts, and are just a general nuisance. If God were the creator, He wouldn’t have made these huge obstacles to human well-being.” In response to this skeptic, we consider, “Why do we need mountains?” For one thing, mountains are a very practical solution to one of humanity’s greatest needs–water.
In a basic geography or meteorology class, we learn about orographic uplift and rain shadows. As air comes across a flat area, it picks up moisture. But to make rain, there must be more than just water. Condensation requires a cool enough temperature and nuclei on which the water vapor can condense. Mountains provide both the cooler temperatures and the condensation nuclei.
As air pushes up the side of a mountain, it cools, and stirred-up dust provides condensation nuclei. For that reason, it is frequently very rainy on the windward side of the mountain. On the other side, the air is dry because all of the moisture has been removed.
Mountains can also capture and store water as ice and snow.Scientific American (January 2021) published an article with data on how many people get their water from the mountains. There are 78 regional mountain chains or “water towers” that deliver water to almost two billion people and surrounding ecosystems. Without mountains, the amount of land that would be hospitable to humans would be much more limited.
In addition to mountains capturing and storing water, they have also created underground aquifers. Glaciers generated in mountain areas have carved out huge valleys, depositing sand and gravel in permeable layers that allow massive amounts of water to seep into the ground. Here in southern Michigan, continental glaciers produced aquifers that supply us with water. In a large area of the Midwest United States, an underground aquifer called the Teays River has supplied adequate water for agriculture.
God has provided a massive and effective water system for nearly all continents, primarily because of mountains. Why do we need mountains? We need them for the water that allows irrigation as well as drinking and other uses. Mountains are beautiful, they provide recreational activities for humans, and they literally water the world for human survival.
Have you ever wondered how a fish drinks water? Your first reaction is probably something like, “It opens its mouth.” Like most things in life, it isn’t that simple.
All living things necessarily have some saltwater content in their bodies to keep chemical balance allowing life to exist. The fluids inside an ocean-dwelling fish are only about a third as salty as the ocean itself. The water inside the fish’s body tends to leave by osmotic pressure, which is the tendency of fluids to move through membranes toward higher concentrations. To avoid this loss of water, the fish does simply open its mouth and drink seawater. But that brings large amounts of salt into the fish’s body. The salt concentration would be more than the fish’s kidneys could handle. To aid the kidneys, the gills of ocean fish are designed to expel salt, so the fish isn’t pickled by it.
In freshwater fish, the osmotic pressure is reversed, so the fluids inside the fish are saltier than the water outside. The skin of a freshwater fish is designed so that water seeps in through its skin and gills. Therefore, the fish doesn’t have to drink at all. When a salmon leaves the ocean and enters a freshwater stream, it merely stops drinking. Like freshwater fish, it depends on its skin to bring in its water needs.
Now that you know how a fish drinks water, the next question would be about other creatures that spend their time in the sea. Birds like albatrosses and petrels can spend more than a year at sea, and whales and seals live in the ocean 24/7/365. How can they avoid being poisoned by the salt? We’ll discuss that tomorrow.
God’s design of life includes fitting living things with specialized equipment to survive in every environment. Fish are remarkable creatures specially equipped for the waterworld in which they live.
Many passages in the Bible seem to be of little significance, yet they are incredibly important. Here is one of them about the water cycle.
“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7.
It is believed that Solomon wrote those words in 977 BC. What did people understand about the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle, at that time? The answer, of course, is “very little.” Meteorologist Dr. Joseph Scott Greeson says about this passage, “Without using modern words – like ‘evaporation,’ ‘condensation,’ and ‘precipitation,’ this passage describes the results of those processes in these words… My twentieth-century scientific mind recognized that the writer of that passage must have had quite an understanding of the interaction between water on earth and water in the sky.”
There is a delicate balance of processes in the hydrologic cycle that allow us to have water even far from a lake or ocean. Many years ago, I had a friend who was involved in seeding clouds with silver iodide to stimulate them to produce rain. I knew that he was involved in this project and that he had many stories about how the seeding of clouds worked. I also knew he got out of that business, and I asked him why? His response was, “We were doing okay in getting rain started, but we were doing very poorly in knowing how to stop it.”
Global warming is bringing water to places that previously were deserts. We know that temperature controls how much water is lifted into the air by evaporation. A one-inch rainfall over a square mile of land involves the lifting of 72,483.84 tons of water. (Do the math. Water is 62.4 lbs per cubic foot. An inch is 1/12th of a foot, so the volume of water in a square mile of land would be 5280 feet/mile x 5280 x 1/12th or 2,323,200 cubic feet.) How many square miles of land receive an inch of rain in a typical spring storm? This is the start of the water cycle.
As the water flows into streams and rivers, it nourishes everything in its path, ultimately returning to the sea from which it evaporated. The system that powers the hydrologic cycle is massive, and all of life depends on it. God used the water cycle to impress upon Job that he “darkens counsel with words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). After talking about the creation, God takes the hydrologic cycle as the first evidence of His knowledge, design, and power. “Who provides a channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the storm to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass. Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew…” (See verses 22-30).
Be thankful for the rain that brings life to us and for the water cycle that God designed so that, if properly managed, we all have enough to drink and to grow our food.
We see a correlation between salt and water chemical bonds and life. One of the first things students learn in chemistry class is that elements bond to form compounds in two different ways. One is called “covalent,” and the other is called “ionic.”
In an ionic bond, two elements transfer an electron. An excellent example of ionic bonding is sodium chloride, common table salt. The sodium in salt has a loosely-held electron in its last orbital. Chlorine, on the other hand, needs an electron, because its last orbital is one electron short of the most stable configuration. When sodium and chlorine combine, the sodium gives up its last electron, and the chlorine absorbs it.
A classic example of a covalent bond is water. Hydrogen needs an electron to produce the most stable possible form of the hydrogen atom. Oxygen needs two electrons to give it the most stable arrangement. Oxygen can share two of its electrons with two hydrogen atoms. The result is that two hydrogen atoms are attached to the one oxygen atom, producing water.
Water and salt are very different kinds of compounds. Water is tough to break apart into its component atoms. Salt is very easy to break apart. Just dumping salt into water will tear the salt molecule apart into sodium and chlorine. The design of these atoms is amazing. The salt molecule is polar because only two atoms are involved. The water molecule is also polar because of the location of the two electrons that are shared with the hydrogen. An electron by itself is not stable. The spin of the electrons and their magnetic properties require pairing to be stable, and that pairing forms compounds such as water and salt.
In teaching high school chemistry, I would use boy-girl relationships to help kids understand chemical bonding. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:18 that God said, “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” Verse 24 says, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” All of life reaches stability in a shared relationship. Just as water is more stable than salt, so too humans who are in a committed relationship of oneness and sharing are more stable than when isolated and alone. The same Designer of salt and water chemical bonds gave us each other for the best of life.
Have you ever been thirsty? I mean, REALLY thirsty!! Thirsty to the point of being willing to give anything for a drink of water? Water is precious. We are seeing the results of a lack of water in many places in the world today. There are entire cities where water is in such short supply that people have to go to extremes to get enough to stay alive. Because the design of water makes it essential for life, scientists looking for evidence of life on other planets start by searching for signs of water. The design of water makes it an excellent illustration of the miracle of living water.
We have discussed water’s chemistry before. The atomic structure of oxygen and hydrogen produces the polar nature of the water molecule, which gives water its incredible properties. The design of water is an amazing example of God’s engineering skills at all levels of complexity.
In ancient times having water was just as critical as it is today. Those of us who live in areas with abundant water have no idea how much the search for it dominated people’s lives in Jesus’ day. It is hard for us to fully appreciate the meaning of the teaching of Jesus in John 4 when He met the woman at the well and offered her the miracle of living water. The person who was assigned the task of keeping the family supplied with water had to be strong enough to walk long distances and carry heavy loads. This woman was going to carry something back to her family that was even more precious than the water she came to get.
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whosoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” John 4:13-14.
To the secular world, that statement is ludicrous, and yet Jesus refers to “rivers of living water” many times. In John 7:38, for example, Jesus says, “Whosoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The next few verses explain, “He said this about the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were about to receive.” Because of our thirst, we understand the importance of water. For unbelievers, the miracle of living water is hard to comprehend, until they have a thirst for a better existence. In Acts 2:38, Peter told the people who WERE convinced that they needed a better existence that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The design of water not only gives us life, but it helps us to understand the importance of the miracle of living water that Jesus offers. When you water a seed, it grows and begins a new existence. When you obey His commands and become a Christian, you begin a new and eternal life. That life brings peace and love, even to the most downcast and sinful person. Living water from Jesus is truly a miracle.