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Difference between Salt Water and Fresh Water

Difference between Salt Water and Fresh Water

Salt water and fresh water are two of the most common bodies of water found on earth, which makes it seem like they would have a lot in common. Both types of water can be found in lakes and streams, rivers and oceans, and each is home to many different aquatic creatures. However, the differences between salt water and fresh water go beyond their implications for the organisms that live within them. Whether a body of water contains salt or not has a significant effect on its properties. Freshwater vs saltwater is one of the major differences between these two types of natural bodies of fresh water. While both offer unique benefits, there are some drawbacks to each as well. Let’s take a look at some of the more prominent differences between salt water and fresh water.

What is Salt Water?

Saltwater is any body of water that contains a significant amount of salt. In this case, the amount of salt is greater than what can be found in freshwater bodies of water. The amount of salt in a particular body of water can vary greatly depending on its origins. Saltwater is known to come from two main sources. The first is when a body of freshwater becomes saltwater due to evaporation. The second is when an ocean current brings saltwater into a particular freshwater system.

What is Fresh Water?

Freshwater is any body of water that does not contain a significant amount of salt. In freshwater, the amount of salt is less than what is found in saltwater. The salt concentration in freshwater can vary greatly depending on its source. Some freshwater comes from underground aquifers, while other sources include rivers, lakes, and snowfall.

Major Differences Between Salt Water and Fresh Water

  • Temperature – Saltwater is typically warmer than freshwater. The warmer temperature of saltwater is thought to be a result of the higher evaporation rate characteristic of saline waters. However, the temperature of freshwater is also known to increase as it evaporates, so exactly why the two differ remains unclear. Freshwater is known to be colder than saltwater due to the fact that it is denser than saline water and will naturally sink to the bottom. Aquatic organisms will experience these temperature variations in different ways. Some organisms, such as fish, are known to thrive in either saline or freshwater. Others, such as plants, may have a narrower range of suitable water temperatures in which they can survive.
  • PH – The pH of saltwater is typically higher than that of freshwater, which has led some scientists to theorize that the difference in pH is responsible for the temperature difference. However, the increased salinity of saline water may also contribute to the higher pH. Organisms living in either type of water will experience the effects of the different pH levels in different ways. Freshwater is known to be slightly more acidic than saltwater, which is believed to be why many organisms thrive in freshwater.

Difference in evaporation rate between Salt Water and Fresh Water

Evaporation is the process by which water is transformed into vapor. Evaporation is known to be higher in saline waters since the water is already salty. Freshwater must evaporate at a higher rate in order to become saltwater because it already contains salt. Freshwater will evaporate at a significantly slower rate, causing the water to be denser and sink to the bottom. Saltwater, on the other hand, will evaporate at a faster rate, causing it to become even saltier.


Fresh water and saltwater are two very different types of water. Freshwater is generally cooler and less dense, while saltwater is warmer and denser. Both types of water have unique benefits and drawbacks, so choosing which type of water to live in is really just up to personal preference!

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