| || Under the burning sun of northwest Egypt, the evaporation of water from the shallower parts of this salt lake has cracked its bed of sand and mud, forming these extremely hard, rounded wrinkles. Here and there salt forms a white crust, tracing the outline of the bluish, stagnant pool. The salt concentration in the water is so high that no living organism can survive. However, the shores of these lakes are shaded by palm trees and olive trees, fed by the oasis’s 230 freshwater springs. Thus, Siwa’s 15,000 inhabitants grow 300,000 date palms and 70,000 olive trees. Fresh water is one of the scarcest resources on the planet, accounting for only 2.5 percent of the total volume of water on the Earth, and of that proportion, 77 percent is trapped as ice at the poles and in glaciers. Liquid fresh water is unequally distributed, being rare in the tropics but plentiful on the equator and in temperate regions. Even where it is abundant, it is still precious. Its quality is constantly deteriorating as a result of contamination from excess organic matter, fertilizers, and other chemicals released by agriculture, industry, and the general population.
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