Potash Evaporation Basins – Moab, Utah


To extract potassium chloride, also known as potash, desert landscapes from Utah, Intrepid Potash, Inc. uses a series of evaporation ponds whose bright blue waters contrast with the red desert that surrounds them.

Intrepid Potash, Inc. operates three potash mines in the United States, one in New Mexico and two in Utah. The most famous and most photographed of these places is in Moab, Utah, where the evaporation ponds of the electric blue potash offer a psychedelic show in the otherwise reddish desert.

At the Moab mine, miners pump Colorado water into the depths of the ground to reach the potash ore, located about 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) below the surface. The water dissolves the soluble potash in a brine, which is then pumped into underground caverns. Once completely dissolved, the potash brine is pumped into one of the evaporation ponds. And that's when things go bad.

The water from the evaporation ponds is dyed in bright blue to help absorb more sunlight and heat. This reduces the time required for the crystallization of potash, which can then be removed and processed for use as fertilizer. The evaporation process in the Moab ponds takes about 300 days and the mine produces between 700 and 1,000 tonnes of potash a day.

As the evaporation process progresses, the pools change color. Sometimes most ponds are of a bright electric blue. Sometimes, however, the ponds display a range of colors, creating a rainbow of blues alongside bands of turquoise, orange, yellow and white, indicating different stages of evaporation. Anyway, it's quite a spectacle, the ponds create a landscape of another world on the shores of Colorado.

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