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Should We Just Let The Dead Sea Die?

Should We Just Let The Dead Sea Die?

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?

Related Reading:

Desalination Will Soon Provide 75% Of Israel’s Drinking Water

Drought Conditions Predicted To Continue In England

Fossil Fuels Sucking Up Our Water Amid Widespread Drought

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174 comments

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11:31AM PST on Nov 7, 2012

If the Israelis don't want to change from extracting Dead Sea minerals through evaporation to membranes in a wide-scale sort of way, they should work on it in parts! Pilot programs that tackle the problem a percent or two at a time. But anything that takes a long time to come to fruition just isn't sexy, politically speaking, so I don't hold out much hope.

5:26AM PDT on Sep 30, 2012

Thanks

1:38AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Thanks for the article.

10:32PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Hi Michael,

The "Catastrophic" part is actually used fairly commonly among those skeptical of that particular aspect as I am. Current skepticism concentrates primarily on the "Anthropogenic" side of things, but there are those who see this as no reason to drop the "C". I don't mean to confuse anyone: I generally find it far more confusing to have a major aspect of a topic dropped when it plays heavily into others (in this case policy-prescriptions and the level of spending on research).

I'm not blaming Rachel Carson for those deaths. I blame those who used her work to push for the ban. I know about the limits on resources and the fact that even now people aren't exactly generally getting fat in Africa. However, saving crops with DDT would have increased the available food, increasing that pool of resources. I am unaware of any soil-quality problems limiting long-term food-production there, aside from one anthropogenic case which recently drove a famine (the Aswan High Dam) so I don't think the malaria parallel quite fits.

8:59PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

I'm sure irrigation prevents a lot of water from reaching the Dead Sea that otherewise would. the irrigation would have to be reduced and harmless waste waters should be piped to the sea from their sources too. that wouldn't stop it but it might slow it down.

4:41PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Humanity is directly linked to speeding up irreversible change of the natural environment as we know it!

8:56AM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Stephen B. I appears that you have all together to much time on your hands. No one, aside from a few academics use "catastrophic" in the title, besides yourself, of course.
To continue to use such is to confuse the average citizen, they are already struggling to understand the many issues concerning Global Climate Change (GCC).

As an illustration, My wife and I use to live in the Yucatan, we were able to bicycle from Coba, a ancient Mayan ruin, along the Sacbe, (White Road), toward Chichen Itza. Today, it is nearly impossible to see the path, due to the height and the thickness of the jungle.
All of that has occurred in a rather short period of just over 20 years.

Back then, we called it Global Warming...I guess we have to be flexible and to expect change.

8:54AM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Continued from Below:

My math suggests that there would be 8,630,000 more people, all vying for the same body of resources. Water, land, food, shelter, not to mention that fact that such would result in boarder outbreaks of Civil Disturbances and War, resulting in forced migration, read...refugees.

I realize that such a discussion might seen somewhat callous, but reality is seldom soft and comfy nor is it always comforting.

Maybe, it lies in these words, For every action there is reaction.

One last word of advise...try to not read just the words that give you comfort but leave you wanting.

8:51AM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Stephen B, As to the issue of DDT, the single report that you have chose to cite is just that...one report, yet there exist a dozen studies that would refute your beliefs.

I suppose that it can be explained by the ol' saying, "Publish or Perish."

It is true that the overall effects of may have been overstated in earlier tests and those reports where the gospel for many years.

We do know that DDT was never utilized in the far North, yet, it appears in the fatty tissue of Polar Bears.

Today, DDT is currently classified as "moderately toxic" by the United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) and "moderately hazardous" by the World Health Organization (WHO), based on the rat oral LD50 of 113 mg/kg.

Reference is often made to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring even though she never pushed for a ban on DDT.

Rachel Carson has been accused, with the ban on DDT, of causing millions of needless deaths, from malaria and yet, there is no historical evidence that indicates that she never supported the ban.

Your thoughts bring to mind a discussion about DDT, Bill Gates has offered to fund the work to eradicate malaria, good news, right.

Ok, Malaria remains a major public health challenge in many countries. In 2008, WHO estimates were 243 million cases, and 863,000 deaths. About 89% of these deaths occur in Africa, and mostly to children under the age of 5. WoW, no more malaria.

My math suggests that there would be 8,630,000 more people, all vying for the same bo

6:59AM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

It is almost normal for inland seas with no outlet in arid areas to die--to turn into salt flats.

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