Viewpoint: The best alternative

The Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance project trumps all other options to save the Dead Sea and it is a pity that various organizations continue to mislead the public.

Dead Sea 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Dead Sea 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE RED SEA-Dead Sea Conveyance project has three aims: firstly, to stabilize the Dead Sea by transferring water from the Bay of Eilat to the Dead Sea; secondly, to provide desalinated water to the Kingdom of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel; and thirdly, to promote regional cooperation.
The first stage of the project includes a desalinization plant in Aqaba, Jordan that will desalinate 80 million cubic meters of water a year, of which 30-50 million cubic meters will go to Israel, with the remainder going to Jordan. Brine from the desalinization plant will be pumped up to the Dead Sea; water from Beit Zera in Israel will be pumped to the Jordanian capital Amman via the King Abdullah Canal and some 30 million cubic meters of desalinated water from Israeli plants on the Mediterranean will be provided to the Palestinian Authority on a cost basis. The project is the first step in a longer term plan to stabilize the level of the Dead Sea and provide much needed water to the region.
The possible environmental effects of the project on the Dead Sea have been the subject of much discussion. Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, with the cooperation of leading global research institutes, conducted a study under the umbrella of the World Bank to examine those possible effects and found that Stage One of the project is highly unlikely to cause damage to the Dead Sea.
The World Bank feasibility study found that adding up to 400 million cubic meters of brine per year to the Dead Sea would not cause environmental damage. Any increase in the amount of brine pumped to the Dead Sea would require further tests and therefore it was decided to carry out the project in stages.
Several alternatives to Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance project have been suggested over the years and the World Bank study also examined alternatives. Its study found that the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance had the greatest potential to stabilize the Dead Sea while allowing Jordan to maintain more of its water sources than other alternatives.
Pumping water from Lake Kinneret and the southern Jordan River to the Dead Sea is not a feasible solution and it is a pity that various organizations continue to mislead the public that this could be a solution for the Dead Sea’s ills. The amount of water reaching the Kinneret is in decline and the amount of water available for release into the southern Jordan is expected to be less than several tens of millions of cubic meters. Not all of that amount would reach the Dead Sea as much of it is pumped out along the way because of the enormous shortage of potable water.
Another alternative, pumping desalinated water from the Mediterranean to the Kinneret and the southern Jordan River is not a realistic option. Firstly, the Israeli public, which is already paying high prices for water, would have to bear the costs of desalination and transport. Secondly, unlike the peace pipeline, this alternative does not provide a solution for the grave water shortage in Amman. Thirdly, for the reasons already explained, the water pumped to the southern Jordan River would not reach the Dead Sea.
A third alternative, pumping water from the Mediterranean to the Beit Shean Valley in Israel where a desalinization plant would be set up and water pumped on to Amman and brine to the Dead Sea was ruled out by the World Bank because of environmental dangers.
Pumping water from the Mediterranean to the northern Dead Sea, desalinating the water there, sending the brine to the Dead Sea and the desalinated water to Amman was considered by the World Bank, but ruled out as economically unfeasible because of the costs dictated by the topography of the route.
To conclude, the peace pipeline has many advantages: desalinating large amounts of water for the benefit of the entire region, stabilizing the Dead Sea, using hydroelectric energy for desalinization, financing most of the project through the sale of water for consumption and, most importantly, creating a foundation for regional cooperation.
To conclude, the first stage of the project is relatively small, feasible from an economic point of view, will not endanger the environment of the Dead Sea, allows for a study of the effects of adding brine to the Dead Sea, and enables the provision of desalinated water within a short time frame. 
Dr. Doron Markel heads the Israel Water Authority's Lake Kinneret Monitoring and Management Unit and was part of Israel's Study Management Unit to the World Bank Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance feasibility study