Dead Sea drying at an alarming rate

March 5th, 2009 - 3:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, March 5 (ANI): A new study has indicated that the water levels in the Dead Sea, which is the deepest point on Earth, are dropping at an alarming rate with serious environmental consequence.

Shahrazad Abu Ghazleh and colleagues from the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany conducted the study.

The study 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 precipitation, 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, the water consumption has caused an accelerated decrease in water level, volume and surface area, 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 lakes 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 researchers point out that this rapid drop in the level of the Dead Sea has a number of detrimental consequences, including higher pumping costs for the factories using the Dead Sea to extract potash, salt and magnesium.

They also include 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 hazards caused by its lowering, the researchers suggest that the diversion of Jordan water to the Mediterranean coast could be replaced by desalinization of seawater.

This would cause 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. (ANI)

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