The Dead Sea also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east andIsrael to the west. Its surface and shores are 427 metres (1,401 ft) below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 306 m (1,004 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 34.2% salinity (in 2011), it is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, though Lake Vanda Antarctica (35%), Lake Assal (Djibouti) (34.8%), Lagoon Garabogazköl in the Caspian Sea (up to 35%) and some hypersaline ponds and lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica (such as Don Juan Pond (44%)) have reported higher salinities. It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 50 kilometres (31 mi) long and 15 kilometres (9 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. Biblically, it was a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world’s first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.
Recession and environmental concerns
In recent decades, the Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking because of diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River to the north. The southern end is fed by a canal maintained by the Dead Sea Works, a company that converts the sea’s raw materials. From a depression of 395 m (1,296 ft) below sea level in 1970 it fell 22 m (72 ft) to 418 m (1,371 ft) below sea level in 2006, reaching a drop rate of 1 m (3 ft) per year. As the water level decreases, the characteristics of the Sea and surrounding region may substantially change.
The Dead Sea level drop has been followed by a groundwater level drop, causing brines that used to occupy underground layers near the shoreline to be flushed out by freshwater. This is believed to be the cause of the recent appearance of large sinkholes along the western shore—incoming freshwater dissolves salt layers, rapidly creating subsurface cavities that subsequently collapse to form these sinkholes
In May 2009 at the World Economic Forum, Jordan announced its plans to construct the “Jordan National Red Sea Development Project” (JRSP). This is a plan to convey seawater from the Red Sea near Aqaba to the Dead Sea. Water would be desalinated along the route to provide fresh water to Jordan, with the brine discharge sent to the Dead Sea for replenishment. As of 2009, the project is in its early phases of planning, with developer and financier selection to be completed by year’s end. The project is anticipated to begin detailed design in early 2010, with water delivery by 2017. Israel has expressed its support and will likely benefit from some of the water delivery to its Negev region. Some hydro-power will be collected near the Dead Sea from the dramatic change in elevation on the downhill side of the project.
In October 2009, the Jordanians announced accelerated plans to extract around 300 million m3 of water per year from the Red Sea, desalinate it for use as fresh water and send the waste water to the Dead Sea by tunnel, despite concerns about inadequate time to assess the potential environmental impact.
At a regional conference in July 2009, officials expressed increased concerns that water levels are dropping. Some suggested various industrial activities around the Dead Sea might need to be reduced. Others advised a range of possible environmental measures to restore conditions. This might include increasing the volume of flow from the Jordan River to replenish the Dead Sea. Currently, only sewage and effluent from fish ponds run in the river’s channel. Experts also asserted a need for strict conservation efforts. They also said agriculture should not be expanded, sustainable support capabilities should be incorporated into the area and pollution sources should be reduced.
Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have signed a water sharing pact aimed at one day replenishing the rapidly drying Dead Sea.
The agreement will build a pipeline to carry brine from a desalination plant at the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, while providing drinking water to the region.
The Dead Sea is dropping by as much as 1m (3.3ft) a year as the River Jordan is depleted for use in irrigation.
But critics fear the plan’s impact on the Dead Sea’s fragile ecosystem.
Such a project has been under discussion for years.
With peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians apparently stagnating, it offers the prospect of successful co-operation at a time of political difficulty, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem.
The agreement was signed on Monday at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington DC. The project is expected to cost $250m-$400m (£152m-£244m).
Call for study
The Dead Sea is so rich in salt and other minerals that humans float naturally on the surface. The area around the sea has an established tourism and health industry because of the water’s unique properties.
But the Dead Sea is losing water rapidly, with some fearing the Dead Sea could dry up entirely by 2050.
The scheme will pipe water from the Gulf of Aqaba off the Red Sea through a desalination plant in Jordan, sending brine to the southern-most edge of the Dead Sea.
The brine will be used to test the impact of Red Sea water being transported to the Dead Sea, according to World Bank officials.
It will involve the construction of a desalination plant in Jordan, projected to yield 80 million-100 million cu m of water annually. A water transfer deal will also see Israel supply water to Jordan and the Palestinian territories.
The project will also yield hydroelectric power for use in the desalination process.
Environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth Middle East has called for an environmental study of how the brine from the desalination plant should be treated before the project begins in earnest, arguing it is unclear how brine from the Red Sea water will affect the Dead Sea’s ecosystem.
Courtesy and Source : Wikipedia and BBC