Contrary to assumptions often made in the literature, explosive volcanic eruptions are capable of transporting significant amounts of water into the stratosphere. In addition to the magmatic water component, atmospheric water vapor is entrained by the column at lower levels. A theoretical model for the conservation of mass, momentum, and thermal energy of four separate components (dry air, water vapor, liquid condensates, and solid particles) is used to determine the extent of atmospheric water redistribution. We examine the effects of water vapor condensation on dynamical characteristics and ambient water vapor transport. A simple technique is presented for deriving canonical forms for the complex system of ordinary differential equations governing the column components. Solutions of this model are presented that show the influence of different volcanic boundary conditions and a range of ambient water vapor distributions on transport of the buoyant column. We show that the water component (vapor + liquid) of small eruption columns rising through a wet atmosphere is dominated by entrained water, whereas larger columns are dominated by the magmatic water. This is due, in part, to the proportionately smaller entrainment surface area in relation to the control volume for the larger columns. We also show that a maintained column with an initial mass flux of 2.7 × 108 kg s−1 erupted into a wet atmosphere would inject 96 Mt of water vapor into the stratosphere over 24 hours, comparable to the annual input from methane oxidation or 100 midlatitude thunderstorms. This increase may accelerate the conversion of simultaneously erupted volcanic SO2 into sulfuric acid.