Okay, not a scientist, but doing a writing project that requires a little knowledge. My question is: If there's a constant source generating enough energy into running water (like a stream, surrounded by non-conductive material) could the water carry an electrical current for an indefinite period? Basically, doing the same job as a wire.

I think the conductors in the water (minerals) may deplete over time because of chemical reactions to this process...but if it's a running stream with constantly renewed minerals, could this happen?

Edit: Clarification was requested for a couple parts. 1) Method of conduction to the water: Not that important, really. I guess a wire capable of conducting the necessary amount of power could work. 2) How fast the water flows: I'm not sure. A strong currant, I guess. But not as severe as rapids.

  • $\begingroup$ Water is quite a poor substitute for a wire. Other than that, yes, it will do. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2019 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Like the asian carp barrier in Illinois? $\endgroup$
    – A.K.
    Feb 11, 2019 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ Hm...thanks A.K. Could you clarify how the Asian Carp Barrier relates? $\endgroup$
    – cal
    Feb 11, 2019 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ Monopol concetion is a long known way to spare the second cable "back" and still is used today on land (e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-wire_earth_return) or across see (e.g., en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_Cable between Sweeden and Germany). To quote: designed for 450 kV DC and up to 600 MW (but operated at a lesser scale). One entry in the sea "... consists of 40 titanium nets each with a surface of 20 m2", the other entry in the sea is "a bare copper ring with a 2-kilometre diameter". With some problems related to the hydrolysis of water (e.g., hydrogen, pH value), well... $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Feb 11, 2019 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Could you make clear how you want to contact this "wire"? And how fast it flows? $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Feb 11, 2019 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


I assume that the fundamental problem with this idea is that due to inherent resistance of the water, heat will be generated. As a result the water will evaporate. If there is no space left for the gaseous water vapor the "pipeline" will just explode.

That is basically why conducting wires are made of copper, it mirrors a remarkably low resistance. Silver and gold would be even better but more expensive on the other hand. Consequently copper is the standard material of wires.

If constant cooling of the system would be permitted, it could basically work. water itself does not significantly conduct electricity, but with electrolytes dissolved in the mentioned (as suggested by the author of this question) it becomes conducting. As long as the ions do not precipitate the liquid retains the property of conductance.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, John! Please clarify: "As long as the ions do not precipitate the liquid retains the property of conductance." Do you mean that the ions could combine or change properties? $\endgroup$
    – cal
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ I wanted to say that specific ions can form insoluble salts. an example is Ba(SO4) or the well known Ca(CO3). The formed salt is a solid which just sinks to the ground and is not able to carry charge anymore as it is required for conductance. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, thanks. So...basically: if there is a constant source of water, conductive ions in the water, AND an outlet for steam...then this would be a feasible situation? $\endgroup$
    – cal
    Feb 11, 2019 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ would say so, yes. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 11, 2019 at 18:12

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