The Dead Sea, which borders Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, gets its name from the extreme salinity of the water. The Dead Sea is 8.6 times more salty than an ocean, making it difficult for any type of life to live in or around it. Despite this perception, however, the Dead Sea is an important link in the ecological chain of the region.
Unfortunately, the Dead Sea is dying. Over the past few years, scientists have noticed that water levels in the Sea are shrinking–rapidly. As the water recedes, thousands of sinkholes have opened up around the Dead Sea’s coastal plain, threatening roads and structures alike.
The entire Middle East, Israel in particular, has been in a state of drought for several years. As a result, a large percentage of water from the Dead Sea’s main tributary, the Jordan River, has been diverted to more populated destinations. You can’t drink the water once it reaches the Sea, so at first, xthis might not seem like a big deal. Eli Raz, an Israeli researcher at the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, tells Yale Environment360 why a disappearing Dead Sea is problematic:
“In the north and west side of the Dead Sea, there are springs, very special habitats, including endemic species, and all of them are under threat.” He notes that this area is on a major route for migrating birds and that the falling sea level is a threat to the oases on the sea’s coast. “Ecology is like a chain,” he says, “you don’t know what will happen in the future after hurting one link in the chain today.”
Some have proposed radical ideas to help preserve the Dead Sea, but others are wondering if such efforts are really worth the time and money. One of the most controversial is the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance, a project that would use series of pipelines, canals, tunnels, and desalination plants to pump water over 100 miles from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The Conveyance would cost a whopping $10 billion and might permanently alter the chemical makeup of the Dead Sea anyway.
Is it worth it? Or should the Dead Sea be allowed to live up to its name?
Image via Thinkstock
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