How Does Dissolved Oxygen Get Into the Water?


The Importance of Dissolved Oxygen

  • Dissolved oxygen is defined as the amount of oxygen that has dissolved into a body of water. The presence of oxygen in water is an important factor for sustaining life within a pond, lake, river or ocean. Without proper saturation of dissolved oxygen, fish and other life forms can't survive. There are three mechanisms that contribute to how much oxygen is dissolved within a specific body of water: diffusion, aeration and waste products from plants.


  • Diffusion refers to the natural inclination of chemical substances to move from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. When gaseous oxygen in the atmosphere is of a higher concentration than dissolved oxygen in the water, diffusion occurs. This results in the displacement of oxygen into the water. Factors that increase atmospheric and barometric pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere--such as cold weather--result in increased levels of diffusion.


  • The surface area of a body of water plays a key factor in dissolving oxygen. Simply put, additional aeration occurs as the surface area of a body of water increases. For example, a swift-moving river creates additional turbulence, splashes and ripples that combine to maximize the amount of water molecules that make contact with oxygen molecules in the atmosphere. This aeration process facilitates diffusion and results in additional dissolving of oxygen.

Waste Products From Plants

  • All plants take in carbon dioxide and excrete oxygen. As such, aquatic plants contribute to oxygen diffusion by releasing oxygen molecules directly into the water. The abundance of plants rooted in a body of water contributes heavily to the amount of dissolved oxygen. So, too, does sea algae and other nonrooted forms of plant life. Additionally, the more heat and sunlight available to aquatic plants, the more oxygen will be dissolved in the water.

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