Economic Uses

Saline lakes are a source of many evaporitic minerals which have a wide range of uses in manufacturing, construction, agriculture, medicine as well as chemical industries. Such evaporites include halite (NaCl), uranium, zeolites (hydrated alumino-silicate minerals with an 'open' structure that can accommodate a wide variety of cations, such as Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+ and others, i.e., Na2Al2Si3O10-2H2O (natrolite) used as molecular filters and ion exchange agents), lithium (used in heat transfer applications and salts used in pharmacology as mood stabilizers), potash (K2O -fertilizer, glass, soap) and borax (Na2B4O710H2O -detergents, cosmetics, glass, pottery). Saline lakes are also a source of Glauber's salts (Na2SO4 - used in manufacturing of detergents, carpet fresheners, glass, paper and textiles) as well as Epsom salts (MgSO47H2O - agricultural and medicinal uses). Glycerol (used in dynamite and light industry) and p-carotene (used in food and medical industries) are both derived from Dunaliella, a green alga widely present in saline lakes. p-carotene is also derived from the salt tolerant cyanobacteria Spirulina. Finally, Artemia cysts, used as food materials for aquaculture (shrimp, fish, and crabs), are harvested commercially from saline lakes.

In some countries, thriving health spas are located adjacent to saline lakes; for example, the Dead Sea (Israel/Jordan) and Manitou Lake (Saskatchewan, Canada). The salty water appears useful in treating certain skin diseases (i.e., psoriasis) and easing pain associated with arthritis and other joint afflictions. Flourishing cosmetic industries, which incorporate salts from saline lakes, have also been established.

A number of lakes support important fisheries. In the Caspian Sea, the Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) supplies 90% of the world's caviar. Fisheries in saline lakes, however, have been threatened by introduction of exotic fish species. In Lake Issyk-kul, for example, introduction of the Sevan trout led to a drastic decline in several endemic species and subsequently of the trout itself.

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