What might the Red-Dead water conveyance look like?

The World Bank,conducting a study on the issue, offers thoughts at a hearing in J'lem.

Red Sea 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Red Sea 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Two years into its Red- Dead Study program, the World Bank offered Wednesday some initial glimpses into what a conveyance to bring water from one sea to the other could look like during a public hearing at Jerusalem’s Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
World Bank researchers are conducting a feasibility study of a proposed project to convey water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to reverse its gradual shrinking.
The World Bank was asked by the three participating governments – Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – to manage the study, for which final reports are expected at the beginning of 2011. The three countries could authorize additional studies.
Environmental activists have claimed that the “alternatives” study, which was added to the feasibility study project after the initial Terms of Reference were drawn up, has not been given enough time.
Water Authority head Prof. Uri Shani said Israel would launch any additional studies it felt it needed after the feasibility study had been submitted.
By Sunday the World Bank will have held five public consultations over a week and a half span – in Amman, Aqaba, Eilat, Jerusalem, and Ramallah.
David Meehan, from the French consultant firm Coyne et Bellier and project leader for the feasibility study, outlined the progress to date.
After completing data collection in 2008, the project is now in the substudy phase, which focuses on four elements: the Red Sea and intake works, the Arava Valley and conveyance system, the Dead Sea and discharge works, and hydro power, desalination and water supply.
Meehan said an initial interim report had been completed and submitted focusing on the Arava valley and conveyance, and on hydro power, desalination and water supply.
Effects of taking water from the Red Sea were being modeled and examined, as were effects of that water on the Dead Sea. He said data the final substudies were expected to be released in October.
“The reports do not draw any conclusions about feasibility yet. They merely define what a feasible project might look like,” he told the audience.
Meehan then got down to some specifics regarding the intake point and type of conveyance being considered.
“We are estimating a conveyance capacity of 1,000 to 2,000 million cubic meters (mcm) per year and desalination, with phased development, and an ultimate desalination goal of 850m.cm/yr around 2060,” he said.
While initially the Terms of Reference talked about creating energy, Meehan said the project would actually need to be powered.
“On day one, the project will need 150 to 250 MW,” he said.
Meehan said that the energy needs had always been part of the reports since the pre-assessment phase.
“The overall project would be a large consumer of energy, that has never been hidden,” he insisted.
The target level of the Dead Sea would be 410 to 420 meters below sea level by about 2048, Meehan said. Right now, the Dead Sea is 424 below sea level.
Regarding intake locations for the conveyance, Meehan said the eastern intake location on the site of the old Aqaba power plant on the Red Sea seems most feasible on technical grounds, but final conclusions would be verified by modeling studies.
The feasibility assessment was examining three different types of conveyances.
A gravity flow tunnel through the low land which would not require pumping, a combination of pipes and canals along the escarpment, and a pumped pipeline of up to six parallel pipes each about three meters in diameter.
Yitzhak Tshuva’s “Peace Canal” idea of lakes and resorts, which he proposed last year, was never part of the Terms of Reference of the World Bank’s study and would not be examined, officials have noted.
All three current options would mostly be built in Jordanian territory, Meehan said.
The tunneling option would be a typically-sized tunnel if atypically long, according to Meehan.
Raymond Colley, of the British firm ERM, discussed the environmental and social assessment his company was preparing.
He said much of his assessment was awaiting the results of the various sub-studies. However, ERM had begun examining the three above mentioned options which the engineers have also begun to look at.
The suggested eastern intake site had two advantages: It was situated in a built up area and it was of “less terrestrial environmental significance than sites on the northern or western side. “The Western intake in Israel was too valuable in terms of coral.
Major issues associated with marine environment remain to be investigated,” however, Colley said.
“While a canal would be cheaper than a tunnel, at first glance on environmental grounds those areas of open canal gave us cause for concern,” Colley said, “To the north, the land is used for farming. Also it would be introducing alien ecology and structure into a desert. Therefore, it is seemingly clearly preferable to use a tunnel all the way.” Regarding a pipeline versus a tunnel, Colley said there were trade offs to each option.
“Constructing a pipeline is very messy, with a 50 km-long moving work site and 100 m-wide trenches, there would be vehicle movement, and access roads,” he said.
“A tunnel would be confined to small tunnel entrances – about five hectares each. However, the ideal sites for tunnel entrances are wadi bottoms – and those are the most sensitive sites along the route. So there’s a tradeoff,” he concluded.
MKs Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who addressed the audience, and Dov Henin (Hadash), who had a statement read out, urged serious studies of the alternatives.
Some representatives of regional councils and Dead Sea mineral mining companies said they felt they had not been consulted enough during the feasibility study process.
Others called for or objected to a pilot project to test the mixing of the waters, which has been undertaken periodically over the years to examine the effects, Shani said.