Solar Evaporation Ponds near Moab, Utah

by | Aug 8, 2017

Pond colors indicate different states of evaporation. The deep, royal-blue color is due to a dye that's added to a full pond of potash brine and water to speed the rate of heat absorption. The seafoam green colors indicate shallower waters (with less dye) that are well into the evaporation process. The tan-colored ponds are nearly dry; salt crystals (the final product) are leftover in the pond and ready for collection. (Credit: NASA)

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of solar evaporation ponds outside the city of Moab, Utah. The 23 colorful ponds spread across 400 acres are part of a large operation to mine potassium chloride”more commonly referred to as muriate of potash (MOP)”from ore buried underground. MOP is in high demand as fertilizer because there are no easy substitutes for potassium, an essential nutrient for plant growth.

Shadows cast on the landscape show the depth and dimension of the surrounding Utah desert. The Colorado Plateau stands at an average elevation of 1,600 meters (5,200 feet) above sea level, in contrast with the Colorado River Valley, with an average elevation of 1,200 meters (3,900 feet). The darker areas along the river bank are rich in green desert vegetation.

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