Brine is not fresh water

In the Salar de Atacama, brines naturally formed which, for the extraction of lithium, are naturally favored by the high geothermal gradient of the sector. They are pools that are saturated with sodium chloride and high concentrations of potassium, magnesium, boron, sulfates and lithium. Although water is also found in these basins, it is not suitable for human or animal consumption.

Why? Imagine a glass of fresh water, one of sea water and one of brine. The former has a maximum of 1,500 mg/l of total dissolved solids (TDS) and is, therefore, drinkable. If you have up to 5,000 mg/l TDS, it cannot be drunk, but it is suitable for irrigation. Seawater has 35,000 mg/l TDS. It could, after several treatments, be desalinated and transformed into a form suitable for human consumption.

Brine, on the other hand, is much more complex: it has a TDS concentration of more than 300,000 mg/l, 200 times more than drinking water and 70 times more than the worst-quality water for irrigation, in addition to other minerals. That is why it can be said that the extraction of elements from the brines of the Salar de Atacama does not directly affect the freshwater resources of the area.