Human Body Decomposition In Water

The process of human body decomposition can be a pretty bleak, yet fascinating topic. There are many factors that should be considered when understanding how the steps of decomposition, at what rate, and how the body reacts throughout the decomposition process. Here we’ll go over what decomposition in water is and how it can differ from natural body decomposition. 

Whether it be by accident, suicide, or foul play, bodies of water are a common place for bodies to be discovered. When bodies decompose in water, the condition  bodies are recovered in differs from that of bodies found in dry environments. 


Factors That Affect Body Decomposition in Water


  • Water Depth – Generally speaking, the deeper you travel into a body of water, the colder it gets. This is because cold water sinks below less dense warm water found at the surface. 
  • Temperature – Depending on the body of water, the cooler temperatures of the water allow for a slower body decomposition. 
  • Water Currents – Strong currents, mainly found in the ocean or fast moving rivers, can cause the body to travel over long distances. During this, a body can potentially be scraped along things like tree limbs, rocks, the bottom of the body of water and more. 
  • Surrounding Ecosystem – Several combinations of humidity, dryness, hot and cold can affect the way in which a body decomposes. 
  • Animal Predation – Animals such as fish, turtles, microorganisms and more can speed up the rate of decomposition. 


When human remains are found in aquatic environments, a new set of decomposition factors come into play. These factors make it a lot more difficult to identify a body and understand where the body came from.


How Long Does It Take A Body To Decompose In Water?

With all of these unique factors now being introduced to the already complex process of human body decomposition, how does the decomposition timeline get impacted? Perhaps as a surprise to some, submersion in water tends to slow down the rate of decomposition, assuming there are no significant wildlife factors nearby (animal & microorganism predation). Due to the fact that bodies of water typically keep the body at lower temperatures, bacterial growth slows, leading to a slower decomposition process. However, once removed from water, a body can experience an increased rate in decomposition compared to bodies that aren’t in water. . 


Aftermath Is Here To Help

For any questions on our services and offerings, we are available 24/7 online or at (877) 701-8406 for further information.