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Moab, Utah

In the Utah desert outside of Moab there is an unusual sight, a huge pond of brilliant pastel liquid. Unlike other unusually colored bodies of water Thinking Color has examined this colorful phenomenon is actually a unique industrial operation.


Potash is a catch all word for different types of mined alkaloids that contain high amounts potassium in a water soluble form. The potassium found in these subsistances is crucial for the production of farm fertilizer and is found in abundance in the Utah desert. In 1963 the Texas Gulf Sulphur company constructed a potash mine outside of Moab, Utah. Later that same year an explosion in the mine killed 17 miners and caused the company to dramatically rethink the way they extracted potash.


Engineers developed a new method of mining for this substance that involved redirecting river water through the old mine and out into a series of evaporation ponds. Since the material that the potassium is encased in is water soluble the the material flushed out from the mine is left to evaporate in the sun leaving only the potassium.

Through the course of this process 2 billion tons of water and material are converted to highly valuable potassium. As the waste water proceeds through different stages of evaporation it puts on a colorful show. Blue dye is initially added to the waste water as it is pumped out from the mine to speed the evaporation process. As the blue water leaches into the atmosphere a massive and colorful display of blues, greens and yellows is left behind.

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