Is the Dead Sea dying?

Mar 04, 2009
Dead Sea

The water levels in the Dead Sea - the deepest point on Earth - are dropping at an alarming rate with serious environmental consequences, according to Shahrazad Abu Ghazleh and colleagues from the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany. The projected Dead Sea-Red Sea or Mediterranean-Dead Sea Channels therefore need a significant carrying capacity to re-fill the Dead Sea to its former level, in order to sustainably generate electricity and produce freshwater by desalinization. The study, published online this week in Springer's journal, Naturwissenschaften, also shows that the drop in water levels is not the result of climate change; rather it is due to ever-increasing human water consumption in the area.

Normally, the water levels of closed lakes such as the Dead Sea reflect climatic conditions - they are the result of the balance between water running into the lake from the tributary area and direct precipita-tion, minus water evaporation. In the case of the Dead Sea, the change in water level is due to intensive human water consumption from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers for irrigation, as well as the use of Dead Sea water for the potash industry by both Israel and Jordan. Over the last 30 years, this water consumption has caused an accelerated decrease in water level (0.7 m/a), volume (0.47 km³/a) and surface area (4 km² /a), according to this study.

Abu Ghazleh and colleagues developed a model of the surface area and water volume of the Dead Sea and found that the lake has lost 14 km3 of water in the last 30 years. The receding water has left leveled sections on the lake's sides - erosional terraces - which the authors recorded precisely for the first time using Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) field surveys. They were able to date the terraces to specific years.

The authors point out that this rapid drop in the level of the Dead Sea has a number of detrimental con-sequences, including higher pumping costs for the factories using the Dead Sea to extract potash, salt and magnesium; an accelerated outflow of fresh water from surrounding underground water aquifers; receding shorelines making it difficult for tourists to access the water for medicinal purposes; and the creation of a treacherous landscape of sinkholes and mud as a result of the dissolution of buried salt which causes severe damage to roads and civil engineering structures.

To address the mounting stress on water resources in the Dead Sea basin and the environmental ha-zards caused by its lowering, the authors suggest that the diversion of Jordan water to the Mediterra-nean coast could be replaced by desalinization of seawater, causing the recession of the Dead Sea to be considerably slowed, and buying time to consider the long-term alternatives such as the Red Sea-Dead Sea Channel or the Mediterranean-Dead Sea Channel.

The authors conclude that either of these channels will require a carrying capacity of more than 0.9 km3 per year to slowly fill the lake back to its levels of 30 years ago and to ensure its long-term sustai-nability for energy production and desalinization to fresh water. Such a channel will also maintain tour-ism and potash industry on both sides of the Dead Sea.

More information: Abu Ghazleh S et al (2009). Water input requirements of the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea. Naturwissenschaften; DOI 10.1007/s00114-009-0514-0

Source: Springer

Explore further: Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sunken logs create new worlds for seafloor animals

Apr 09, 2014

When it comes to food, most of the deep sea is a desert. Many seafloor animals feed on marine snow—the organic remnants of algae and animals that live in the sunlit surface waters, far above. However, marine ...

Tracking sperm whales' ecology through stomach contents

Apr 04, 2014

In the largest regional study of its type to date, marine ecologist Michelle Staudinger and colleagues offer better understanding of the feeding ecologies of two very rare sperm whale species in waters off ...

A new ocean for the desert

Apr 01, 2014

As I let the air out of my buoyancy vest and slip under the water of the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 ocean, I hear a steady hum reminding me of the machinery working behind the scenes to filter the ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

20 hours ago

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...