Water: Its origin and detrimental effects in a brief

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Water is a special creation that can be found almost everywhere in nature, in our body, in biological cells, and possibly in the whole universe. Many physical and chemical properties of liquid water are different from other fluids, which make it unique and behave mysteriously. God has stressed the importance of water in life as reflected by the presence of many relevant verses in the Qur’an, one of which is considered as His command when He asks a question, “Have you observed the water that you drink?” (Al-Waqiah, 56:68). The effects of water in our environment, both positive and negative, are immense. It is, therefore, necessary to study in details scientifically and philosophically the properties and structure of water at the molecular level.

Solid ice floats while other solids submerge. Image source: pixabay.com

Water molecule corresponds to a human body with two hands

A water molecule consists basically of two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single oxygen atom, in a way corresponds to the two hands connected to a human body. Like our body, the oxygen atom provides the required energy. Similar to our hands, the hydrogen bondings can vary in length; thus, able to perform many tasks easily.

The three phases of water
The three phases of water. Source: giftofcuriosity.com

Water can exist in three different phases, namely liquid, vapour or solid ice, depending on the surrounding temperature. Nonetheless, the water molecules remain the same during these states, only the structure changes. When heat energy is absorbed, liquid water becomes vapour. At this state, the water molecules are further apart. Conversely, when cooled, liquid water becomes solid ice, during which the molecules form a crystalline structure.

Effects of water on buildings 

We can observe the effects of water on buildings and other structures such as bridges in our built environment. For buildings, roof and facade are two major components that critically affected by the action of water. The façade forms the external envelope of modern buildings. It usually attached to the building frame and provides no contribution to structural stability. This type of façade that often used in medium and high-rise buildings is called a non-loadbearing vertical building enclosure. Owners and occupiers have a legal duty to ensure their building is safe. If a falling façade causes injury to visitors, occupiers, neighbours, third parties or property, then liability arises. Therefore, proper maintenance of a facade is compulsory to ensure its safety.

Failure of exterior insulation and finishing system (EIFS) often caused by trapped moisture. Source: superiorexteriorsystems.com

As a building enclosure, both roof and façade continuously exposed to the external environment.  Therefore, they are subjected to the effect of water and moisture in the air. Studies indicate the detrimental effect of water moisture on the surface of most concrete products, including brickworks.



Designing building envelopes

To last longer, building envelopes, especially the reinforced concrete flat roof have to be properly designed.  For example, the inclusion of waterproofing compound treatment is necessary. Also, the leaking of gutter and rainwater down-pipe are normal problems in building maintenance. Both have to cater properly for the smooth flow and adequate discharge of water from the roof; any blockage or leakage will affect the water discharge. Therefore, the design and maintenance of many building parts and components have to consider the effect of water, its associated problems and the recommended solutions.

Destructive action of water on bridges

A collapsed bridge due to the destructive action of water. Source: telegraph.co.uk

Bridge structures, which mostly made of reinforced concrete and subjected to high loadings and stresses, have to be continuously maintained and repaired to reduce the effect of water and moisture. To prevent the corrosion of steel reinforcement in concrete, the cracks and spalling that appeared on the concrete surface have to treat promptly. If not properly treated, these defects could result in a significant reduction of structural strength, thus affecting the integrity and safety of a bridge. Most bridge collapses give few warning signs, thus regular inspection and repairs are important to ensure their reliability (McLinn 2009).

From the study of all bridges events spanning 1989 to 2000 in the U.S. performed by Wardhana et al. (2003), it found that the top two causes of

Seriously damaged bridge pier due to flood water. Source: workingtoncivictrust.org.uk

bridge collapse related to the destructive action of water: flood (32.8%) and scour (15.5%). The other identified cause was deterioration (8.55%) at the 5th place, which also very much related to the action of water and moisture in the air. Therefore, in total, more than 50% of the bridge catastrophes in the U.S. during that period related to water and its powerful destructive action.

Concrete defects

Concrete spalling with exposed reinforcement steel. Image: pinterest.com

Concrete spalling is typically a result of reinforcement corrosion or joint failure, where produced internal expansion forces can lead to large-scale delamination of the surrounding concrete (TRB 2004). Bridges that span warm seawater are especially susceptible to corrosion and spalling. The ‘splashzone’ is a section of a bridge pier where seawater repeatedly splashes and then evaporates. This process leaves behind a thin residue of concentrated salt, which later diffuses into the pier, and causing the damage.

Maintenance techniques

Correct bridge maintenance techniques can largely relieve any additional adverse effects of the defective concrete. Even though there are other chemical reactions such as chloride penetration, carbonation process, and sulfate attacks that can significantly affect reinforced concrete structures, the effects of water and ambient moisture contents are the central ones that usually trigger and aggravate the damage. Therefore, the type of chemical products used and methods employed in the repairing of concrete cracks and spalling must take into account the effects of water and moisture in the environment as the very important factors for an effective treatment that would last much longer.

Throne on waters during the cosmic creation

From the verse (Q. 21:30), it seems that water has played a prominent role in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Indeed, other sacred texts like the Bible also stating the same thing (Book of Genesis 1:2). Everything created in pairs. Also, the two in a pair originally from a single source. In the creation of the heavens and the earth, both also originally from one source, namely water, before the two were separated.

“It has He who created the heavens and the earth in six Days – and His Throne was over the waters – that He might try you, which of you is best in conduct. And truly, say: “Truly you shall be resurrected after death,” then those who disbelieve would indeed say, “This is nothing but plain magic!” (Hud, 11:7)  

In the verse (Q. 11:7), Allah, the Exalted, informs of His power over all things. Also, He created the heavens and the earth in six Days, and His Throne was over the waters. Unlike many other Qur’anic commentators, Yusuf Ali uses the plural word ‘waters,’ indicating the existence of more than one type of water.

Role of water in cosmic creation

Quasar Drenched in water vapour. Image credit: NASA/ESA

Water believed to play a key role in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Even though the Qur’an clearly says the heavens made from smoke (Q. 41:11,12), but the smoke said to originate from the water. Ibn Abbas (d.687) the youngest of the four most eminent commentators of the Qur’an from the generation of the companions, reported to have said:

“God’s Throne was on water when nothing other than water had created yet. When He decided to bring creation into being, He brought out smoke from water, which rose upwards. From this smoke, He made the heavens. Then the water dried up, and He made earth from it; then He fashioned seven earths from this one in two days…likewise, He fashioned seven heavens from the one He had made from smoke.” (Ibn Kathir 1998)

Seven types of cosmic water

In addition to the three phases of water in our physical world, other types of water may also permeate the whole universe. These invisible entities called subtle waters, which still entirely undetectable presently. Based on the analysis of the relevant Qur’anic verses, we postulate on the existence of seven types of cosmic water in the whole universe. The detailed analysis and explanation of this proponent found in our published book about water (click here).


Kathir, Ibn (1998). A compilation of Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Volumes 1 to 10, English translation with Arabic verses, Dar-us-Salam Publications

McLinn, J. (2009). Major bridge collapses in the U.S., and around the world, Annual Technology Report, IEEE Reliability Society

TRB (Transportation Research Board) (2004). Concrete Bridge Deck Performance, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Washington, D.C.

Wardhana, Kumalasari, and Hadipriono (2003). Analysis of Recent Bridge Failures in the United States, Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, ASCE, August 2003, pp. 144-150

Yusuf Ali (1968). The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Dar Al Arabia Publishing, Beirut, Lebanon


This article is an excerpt from Dr. Ab Nasir Jaafar book entitled Al-Qur’an & Science: Have You Observed the Water that You Drink?


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