Falling water

Published - March 08, 2012 02:31 am IST

Chitrakote waterfalls. Photo: Special Arrangement

Chitrakote waterfalls. Photo: Special Arrangement

Why does water appear white when it falls from height?


Bidar, Karnataka

Water falling from a height appears white due to a phenomenon called non-selective scattering.

When water falls from a height with high velocity, lot of tiny water droplets are formed around the falling mass of water due to the bombardment of water with the rocks. These tiny droplets are about 100-1000 times bigger in size when compared with the wavelength of visible light which human eyes can see. (The visible range to which human eye is sensitive is about 0.4-0.7 micro metre, 1 micro metre = 10 raised to the power -6 metre).

The light coming from the sun which the humans can see has three primary colours red, green and blue mixed in it. When light rays are incident over the water droplets, they scatter the entire visible range equally in all directions.

When the three primary colours red, green and blue are mixed in equal proportions, they produce white colour. Hence, the colour we see after scattering by the water droplets is white.

When water falls with a low velocity, very less or even no such tiny droplets are formed around the falling water and hence no scattering takes place. Hence we do not see white falling water at those times.


Research Scholar

Indian Institute of Science


0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.