Dead Sea drying quicker than usual

Regional governments commission World Bank to examine feasibility of Red-Dead canal.

Dry Dead Sea 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dry Dead Sea 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Dead Sea is evaporating faster each year rather than decreasing at a steady rate, according to data provided by the Hydrological Service and Eli Raz that was released on Sunday. The sea evaporated 18 cm. in August and 19 cm. in July, dropping to 422.83 meters below sea level. The drop-off rate over the last decade has been 1.016 meters per year. Now it has increased to 1.29 meters annually, according to the latest numbers. The sea has dropped roughly 25 meters in the last 33 years and over 10 meters in the last decade. Fresh water used to flow down the Jordan River to replenish the Dead Sea, thus keeping it constant throughout the millennia. However, in the 1960s, the water was diverted into the National Water Carrier for the populace to drink. These days, the only thing that flows into the Dead Sea is raw sewage and effluence from the fish ponds along the Jordan River. In addition, the industrial processes being carried out at the Dead Sea to harvest minerals also contribute to the evaporation rate. Regional governments are aware of the problem and have commissioned the World Bank to examine the feasibility of conveying water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Some of the water would replenish the Dead Sea and some of it would be desalinated for Jordanian use, one of the 10 most water-poor countries in the world. The feasibility studies are supposed to take until early 2011 to complete. However, there has been an increasing call by local environmentalists for alternatives to the Red-Dead Canal project to be considered. They have managed to convince the World Bank to add an alternatives study to the feasibility project. Concurrently, the Israelis and Jordanians have recently approved a pilot conveyance project to test what effect water from the Red Sea would have on the Dead Sea. Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) has been at the forefront of pushing for the alternatives study. "The terms of reference for the alternatives study have now been approved and it is supposed to launch in October," Friends of the Earth Israel Director Gidon Bromberg told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Bromberg said the alternatives study was supposed to take a year and all the studies completed by March 2011. "However, we have still not seen a copy of the alternative study and a list of the consultants carrying out the study despite making a formal request for them. Three consultants, one from each country, have been identified by their respective governments (Israel, Jordan and the PA)," he added. But Bromberg questioned the legality of handpicking consultants rather than preparing an international tender to find objective consultants as was done with the other feasibility studies. "Our concern is that the people have been handpicked by their governments rather than being independent. An international tender was used for the other studies. We question the legality of this new process," he said.