General Question

rojo's avatar

The conductive qualities of water will allow electrical current to travel through it. But, is there a point where there is too much water for the electricity to administer a fatal or severe shock?

Asked by rojo (22136points) June 12th, 2017

Question generated from something on TV where people were in the water in a building after a tidal surge from a typhoon and could feel the tingle of electricity in the water but were not negatively affected by it.

Can the amount of water “dilute” the electrical current or is it more dependent upon the location of the electrical source and the human body?

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8 Answers

kritiper's avatar

Electricity always follows the path of least resistance, so, no, the current is not “diluted.” A fatal shock can only occur if the current flows through the heart.

Brian1946's avatar

Actually, distilled (pure) water doesn’t conduct electricity.

I confirmed this using distilled water and a volt/ohm meter. If you set the meter to measure resistance (ohms), insert the probes in the water, you’ll see the resistance is infinite ohms, i.e., there is no conduction.

The dissolved matter found in most water is what conducts the electricity, so the answer to your question is yes. The greater the ratio of water to conductive dissolved matter, the lesser the electrical flow, hence the greater the chance of not getting shocked.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Exactly. Pure water is in fact a damned good insulator. This is one of those questions where you catch yourself grinding your teeth. Hook your toaster or clock radio to a long extension cord and toss it from a Chicago pier into Lake Michigan. Will dead fish then foul up the entire Wisconsin shoreline? Or better yet, a lightning bolt grounds somewhere mid Pacific. Is all sealife electrocuted?

kritiper's avatar

I think the question pertained to water in general, not pure, distilled water which cannot be found anywhere naturally, much less someplace where random electrocution might take place.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I’ve been in the swamps in terrible lighting storms. I could literally see the lightning hitting the water all around me. I was never shocked. I figured it was random luck…

kritiper's avatar

Also, to get shocked, your body, or a part of it, must complete a circuit. Like if you’re standing on the ground with bare feet and you touch a live wire with your hand. The electricity would flow through you from hand to ground.
Being in water, like @MrGrimm888 , the electricity would flow from water’s surface where struck to ground taking the path of least resistance. So, no shock noted. Also the electricity would not flow through @MrGrimm888 completing the circuit.

MrGrimm888's avatar

But people get struck by lightning in the water sometimes. It’s clearly not easy, but it happens.

kritiper's avatar

And that would complete the circuit! The electricity would flow through the person to ground. Violently!

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