Experimental results on the inception and propagation of streamers in water generated under the application of high electric fields are reviewed. Characteristic parameters, such as breakdown voltage, polarity of the applied voltage, propagation velocities and other phenomenological features, are compared with similar phenomena in other dielectric liquids and in gases. Consequently, parameters that are expected to influence the development of streamers in water are discussed with respect to the analogous well-established models and theories for the related mechanisms in gases. Most of the data support the notion that an initial low-density nucleation site or gas-filled bubble assists the initiation of a streamer. Details of this theory are laid out explaining the observed differences in the breakdown originating from the anode versus the cathode locations. The mechanisms can also be applied to streamer propagation, although some observations cannot be satisfactorily explained.