(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/IAN AND WENDY SEWELL)
The plan to desalinate water from the Gulf of Aqaba, pump the sweet water to parched Amman, and pour the brine into the Dead Sea has been lauded as a means of cementing ties with Jordan.
However, at a meeting of the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee on Tuesday, participants expressed concern that the Red-Dead Canal project is more about ties with the Hashemite kingdom than about saving the rapidly- shrinking Dead Sea.
Dov Litvinoff, head of Tamar Regional Council bordering the salt lake, told the committee that “This plan is more about getting water to Jordan. By the time the plan gets going, the Dead Sea will have already dropped by six meters.”
Every day he and other Dead Sea area residents witness the lake level subside through evaporation in the torrid summer heat. The Dead Sea is dropping by 1.2 meters annually, he said, because of the diversion of water from the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers.
Litvinoff chastised the Knesset for not doing enough to save the endangered Dead Sea, one of the world’s natural wonders. Singling out Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen-Paran, who heads the Lobby for Saving the Dead Sea, he lamented that until the Tuesday meeting, his region was unaware that she headed the lobby.
Sarit Caspi-Oron of Adam Teva V’Din-Israel Union For Environmental Defense told the committee, “We support attempts to make peace with our neighbors, but not through destroying the Dead Sea.”
The current plan will cause a “complete change to the sea’s mineral composition,” she warned.
Geologist Eli Raz, from the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, criticized the current plan to bring water from the Red Sea for not having investigated the other options.
Raz noted that instead of pumping water 180 km. from Eilat, it could be more economical to bring water by pipes from the Mediterranean Sea.
Maya Etgari, the canal’s project manager, emphasized the importance of the existing plan and said that it was “Jordan’s plan for its water market for at least the next decade.”
“We looked into different options, but in the end we found that this project for this length of time was the best choice for the Dead Sea and for Jordan,” she said.
In February 2015, Israel and Jordan signed a bilateral agreement to exchange water and funnel Red Sea desalination brine to the Dead Sea.
The initial phase of the plan calls for a 65 million cubic meter desalination plant in Aqaba, from which Jordan will use 30 MCM annually and Israel will be able to purchase 35 MCM to convey to its dry Negev Desert and Arava regions. Once that plant is expanded to 85 MCM, Israel will be able to buy 50 MCM from the facility.
In return for Israel’s southern allowances, Jordan will be able to buy an additional 50 MCM of Lake Kinneret water from Israel annually, roughly doubling its current allocation and serving its increasingly thirsty northern population.
The brine, or residual hyper-saline water, generated from the Aqaba desalination facility is slated to be pumped northward along a 200-km.
pipeline on the Jordanian side of the border, serving to replenish the Dead Sea.
Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara updated MKs on the progress of the Red-Dead Canal project.
He noted than June 20 the advance tender will close, upon which the companies that will bid on the tender for the construction of a desalination facility will be chosen. Joint Israeli-Jordanian teams have begun work on the desalination tender.
It is estimated that two years will elapse between publication of the tender and its financial closing, and that construction will take three years.