Water potential is the potential energy of water per unit volume relative to pure water in reference conditions. Water potential quantifies the tendency of water to move from one area to another due to osmosis, gravity, mechanical pressure, or matrix effects such as surface tension. Water potential has proved especially useful in understanding water movement within plants, animals, and soil. Water potential is typically expressed in potential energy per unit volume and very often is represented by the Greek letter .
Water potential integrates a variety of different potential drivers of water movement, which may operate in the same or different directions. Within complex biological systems, it is common for many potential factors to be important. For example, the addition of solutes to water lowers the water's potential (makes it more negative), just as the increase in pressure increases its potential (makes it more positive). If possible, water will move from an area of higher water potential to an area that has a lower water potential. One very common example is water that contains a dissolved salt, like sea water or the solution within living cells. These solutions typically have negative water potentials, relative to the pure water reference. If there is no restriction on flow, water molecules will proceed from the locus of pure water to the more negative water potential of the solution; flow proceeds until the difference in solute potential is balanced by another force, for example, pressure potential.
Read more about Water Potential: Components of Water Potential
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... Osmosis is the diffusion of water molecules across a selectively permeable membrane ... The net movement of water molecules through a partially permeable membrane from a solution of high water potential to an area of low water potential ... A cell with a less negative water potential will draw in water but this depends on other factors as well such as solute potential (pressure in the cell e.g ...
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