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U.S. Geological Survey
Fact Sheet 2006-3044

Freshwater Diatomite Deposits in the Western United States

By Alan R. Wallace; David G. Frank; and Alan Founie


Freshwater diatomite deposits in the Western United States are found in lake beds that formed millions of years ago. These diatom-rich sediments are among the Nation’s largest commercial diatomite deposits. Each deposit contains billions of tiny diatom skeletons, which are widely used for filtration, absorption, and abrasives. New studies by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are revealing how ancient lakes in the Western States produced such large numbers of diatoms. These findings can be used by both land-use managers and mining companies to better evaluate diatomite resources in the region.

thumbnail view of map showing seven western states
Locations of diatomite deposits and Miocene and Pliocene sedimentary rocks in the Western United States. These deposits and sedimentary rocks formed in a variety of geologic environments during the past 20 million years. Most formed in lakes, but some sedimentary rocks and diatomite deposits along coastal southwestern California are related to shallow-marine environments.

Download this two-page Fact Sheet, (fs-2006-3044.pdf; 576 KB).

For questions about the content of this report, contact Alan Wallace

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Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: May 23, 2006
Last modified: August 3, 2006 (mfd)