ISRAEL: The Dead Sea is dying

The Dead Sea is dying – it’s going the way of the Aral Sea, and is dropping by about a metre a year. If this continues, it’ll likely be gone in 30 years. The video below sets out why, but the tl;dr is that both Israel and Jordan are using evaporation pools to extract the potash and other valuable minerals, and are also drawing deep on the Jordan River for hydroelectricity and fresh water. Essentially, not enough new water is flowing into the Dead Sea to replace what evaporates. (Climate change is not helping either, with hotter weather and less rain in the winter.)

This video talks hopefully about the Red-Dead Sea pipeline, a plan to bring salt water from the Red Sea by pipe to the Dead Sea, providing hydroelectricity and desalinated water along the way – something Jordan needs badly. Israel used to be as desperate for water, until it discovered huge natural gas reserves and invested that into fuelling its own desalination from the Mediterranean.

However, the Red-Dead Sea pipeline was cancelled last year due to lack of cooperation between the two countries, who have a “cold peace”, plus financing issues, environmental concerns, and the ever-changing Israeli government. Jordan instead will continue to buy water from Israel, but that does nothing for the Dead Sea.

The exposed lakebed of the Dead Sea – that used to be all underwater just a few decades ago.

On our trip, as we drove down to a resort on the Israeli side, I could see the exposed lakebed, stretching many metres from the old shore. We also saw the sinkholes that have taken out resorts, and even took a stretch of new highway that detoured around the old one, collapsed into the ground.

A section of highway closed off due to sinkholes from the dropping water level

While it was extremely fun to float in the Dead Sea (the buoyancy is really surreal), the drive down really gives you a sinking feeling, pun intended. The Aral Sea has shown us that we’re fully capable of destroying bodies of water on this scale in a single human lifetime, and Israel, Jordan, and the international community seem fully prepared to let the Dead Sea die too.

Fun while it lasts

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