Abstract The water-oxidizing complex (WOC), also known as the oxygen-evolving complex (OEC), of photosystem II in oxygenic photosynthetic organisms efficiently catalyzes water oxidation. It is, therefore, responsible for the presence of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. The WOC is a manganese–calcium (Mn4CaO5(H2O)4) cluster housed in a protein complex. In this review, we focus on water exchange chemistry of metal hydrates and discuss the mechanisms and factors affecting this chemical process. Further, water exchange rates for both the biological cofactor and synthetic manganese water splitting are discussed. The importance of fully unveiling the water exchange mechanism to understand the chemistry of water oxidation is also emphasized here. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Photosynthesis Research for Sustainability: Keys to Produce Clean Energy.