Water Colors: 10 Unnaturally Dyed Polluted Rivers

This is not your father’s white water rafting… or any other color rafting for that matter, since you wouldn’t want to bring a raft or anyone on it anywhere near these bizarrely colored rivers. Tinted by toxins, dyed by discharges and flush out of fish, the startling hues of these 10 ravaged rivers are red cards against those who so monumentally mismanage these precious water resources.

White River

(images via: Life of Guangzhou)

China’s Yellow River (or Huang He, in Chinese) is one of the world’s great rivers and the second-longest in all of China. Even the largest, widest and deepest rivers can fall prey to pollution on a massive scale, unfortunately, and such was the case on Friday, Dec 22nd of 2006 when the Yellow River turned ivory white around the city of Lanzhou. Though milky white residue coated rocks along the shoreline and a sour odor emanated from the water itself, no explanation was ever found (or released).

(images via: Mirror UK and La Mode Verte)

Rivers have other ways of turning white, though the culprit is still pollution. Nature-lovers were rather “irked” in April of 2009 when a 150-ft stretch of the River Irk was subsumed in bright white foam up to 10 feet thick. A detergent factory upstream denied responsibility for the situation, stating the cause “remains a mystery.” Another infamous white foamy river winds its way through southeastern Brazil. The Tietê River fills with foam spawned by phosphate-laden domestic runoff in the dry season when water levels and the river’s flow rate are at their lowest.

Pink River

(images via: Ecouterre and Facts and Details)

Walk through any crowded city anywhere in the world and you’ll see pink: this pleasing shade of pale red is the predominant hue for girl’s and women’s clothing. What’s not so pleasing (and less well-known) is that cute clothing gets its tint from harsh chemical dyes that are expensive to filter from waste water at textile plants. Check the label on your pink blouse – you can be fairly sure that where it’s made, a pink river runs through it.

(image via: Scenes From Philadelphia)

Here in the western world, we dye our rivers pink on purpose which somehow doesn’t really seem right. We can’t really argue about the temporary dyeing of Philadelphia’s famous Love Fountain, though, as it was done to raise awareness about breast cancer. One hopes the water was disposed of properly, or better yet recycled.

Red River

(images via: Asiantown.net and Chariweb)

When rivers run red it’s never a good ting, no matter how red they get or how they get red. Take the Jian River, which runs through Luoyang City in China’s Henan Province and provides drinking water for its residents… who are definitely NOT vampires.

(image via: Chariweb)

Local government authorities and environmental activists worked together (or at least, in parallel) to find the source of the non-NCAA-approved crimson tide: two dye houses situated upstream that were both quickly ordered closed. You might say they were caught red-handed.

Orange River

(images via: Daily Mail UK and Daily Mail UK)

Save the Wales? Not to mention the ducks for whom “a l’orange” became a recipe for disaster long before the dinner table beckoned. The tangerine tributaries above were tinted by either runoff from a flooded iron mine or “unknown causes”, neither of which sounds appetizing.

(image via: Stuff of Awesome)

Then there’s the brilliant vermilion river above, tainted by toxic tailings from a nearby nickel mine in Canada. The photograph, taken by Edward Burtynsky in 1996, depicts an eerie and forbidding landscape. Notice any trees, shrubs, a single blade of grass anywhere near its blackened shores? If this is why people are so down on Nickelback, well, I can’t say I blame them.

Yellow River

(images via: CRI-English)

China’s Yellow River was named for the pale silt it carries, though in today’s industrialized China it may be tinted yellow or any other color due to pollution and “accidental” waste water releases. The above images show poisonous yellow bubbles floating on the river due to an oil spill. Those ducks had better not duck…

(image via: Wild & Scenic FF)

We mentioned the Yellow River was located in China… well it is, but it also was: in New Hampshire and central Massachusetts, going incognito under the name “Nashua River”. Toxic runoff from textile, shoe and paper mills in the 1950s and 1960s regularly turned the Nashua a variety of startling shades but mainly through the tireless efforts of environmental activist Marion Stoddart, the Nashua has regained much of its original vitality – not to mention a more complementary hue.

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