Q: Why Are Oceans Salty and Lakes and Rivers Not?

By Robertson, Bill | Science and Children, April-May 2009 | Go to article overview

Q: Why Are Oceans Salty and Lakes and Rivers Not?


Robertson, Bill, Science and Children


A: For starters, lakes and rivers do contain salt, just not as much as the oceans. If you take a glass of drinking water and add a few grains of table salt, chances are you won't taste that salt in the water. So-called "fresh water" in lakes and oceans also contains many other dissolved minerals. Just for kicks, get some distilled water and have a drink. You will undoubtedly notice a difference in taste between that and your regular drinking water. That's because distilled water has many of the natural salts and minerals removed. In some areas, drinking water contains relatively large quantities of dissolved minerals, which can result in rust-colored stains in your sink and mineral buildup in pipes. And, if you need further convincing of the mineral content of fresh water, I can direct you to a cabin in northern Michigan where I once spent the summer. The water out of the tap was rust colored and smelled of sulfur--great for baths! Anyway, the question is not why oceans are salty and rivers and lakes not, but rather why the oceans are so much saltier than rivers and lakes.

Inlets and Outlets

To understand what's going on, try this simple activity. Dissolve a handful of table salt in a pan of water, and then either leave the pan out until the water evaporates or heat the pan up so the water boils away. What you'll be left with is a bunch of salt in the pan. This illustrates that when water evaporates, any dissolved salt or minerals are left behind (not completely true, or else you wouldn't be able to "smell the salt air" near an ocean). That's fine, but since water evaporates from lakes and rivers as well as from oceans, this must not tell the whole story.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Now find a map of your state or region that shows lakes and rivers. Notice that virtually all of the small streams empty into larger rivers, which either empty into rivers that lead to the ocean or empty into lakes. Notice also that lakes have rivers entering them, and rivers leaving them--an inlet and an outlet. Now, what is the main source of water for streams and rivers? Rainfall and runoff that is a result of rainfall. This rainfall does contain salts and minerals but not much. The runoff from snow melting and rain falling in mountains contains a bit more in the way of salts and minerals because it interacts with rocks on the way down, so it would be wrong to say that rivers and lakes don't have salts and minerals entering them. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Q: Why Are Oceans Salty and Lakes and Rivers Not?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.