A brilliant blue series of man-made ponds punctuates Utah’s reddish-brown desert landscape, adding a touch of the bizarre to an otherwise barren region. Known as the potash evaporation ponds, these bodies of water aren’t for swimming—they are actually used to isolate a specific type of salt that contains potassium.
Utah’s potash evaporation ponds were created to harvest potash–a word which describes an array of potassium-containing salts–which is then distributed for use around the county. Getting its name from the Dutch word potaschen—meaning “pot ashes”—the substance is used in a variety of common goods such as fertilizer and soap.
To harvest the potash, miners first pump briny water from the nearby Colorado river into an underground mine. The salty water dissolves the potash—which is buried about 3,000 feet below ground—but leaves other minerals in the area largely undisturbed. The potash-infused water is then sent to the evaporation ponds.