Dead Sea awareness

While raising world consciousness about the Dead Sea’s plight is an important and noble goal that should be pursued, there are no easy solutions.

The Dead Sea 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Dead Sea 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Time is running out. On Friday, November 11 at 11:11 p.m. Zurich time (1:11p.m. Israel time) the New7Wonders of the World vote will draw to a close.
Our very own Dead Sea is one of the 28 finalists that stand a chance of being chosen – via Internet ( or SMS (texting “Dead Sea” to 2244) – as one of the world’s most amazing natural sites.
Organized by the Zurich-based New7Wonders Foundation, the goal of the campaign is to raise world awareness for natural wonders. Bernard Weber, the founder of New7Wonders, is quoted on the foundation’s website as saying that he was motivated by the desire “to find an idea, a word or a simple concept that everyone on our planet would immediately understand and be motivated to act upon.”
Weber’s slogan for the campaign is: “If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it.”
The message is eminently applicable to the Dead Sea.
Famous for its therapeutic minerals and for the way people float in it like corks, the Dead Sea is evaporating away at a rate of one meter a year.
Fresh water that once ran from the Jordan River to replenish the Dead Sea is now siphoned off to provide increasingly scarce drinking water for the rapidly growing Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis.
Mineral extraction, on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the Dead Sea, which includes accelerated evaporation, is also adding to the shrinkage.
Studies suggest that if nothing is done, the world’s lowest body of water will stabilize at about 100 meters lower than it is now. Nevertheless, that would spell disaster for the environment, and for the tourist resorts on its shores.
That’s where New7Wonders comes in.
Worldwide appreciation for the Dead Sea, as reflected in a successful voting turnout, will increase the motivation to save it. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions.
One of the more grandiose ideas put forward is building a 200 kilometer-long conduit to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Some would replenish and stabilize the Dead Sea. The rest would be desalinated – using the energy gained from its downhill run to the lowest point on the surface of the earth – to supply fresh water, particularly to Jordan, one of the most water-poor nations in the world.
However, if this multi-billion-dollar project, known as the Red-Dead Canal, is implemented it might yield a paradoxical result: While attempting to preserve the Dead Sea, we might end up fundamentally, and irreversibly, changing it beyond recognition.
The Red Sea is briny and so chemically different from the fresh water that has been replenishing the Dead Sea for thousands of years that it might radically transform the Dead Sea’s consistency and composition.
Research by the Geological Survey of Israel suggests that sea brine added to the hyper-salty, denser Dead Sea will float on the surface, mixing in only over years, or decades.
Algal blooms resulting from the mixture could turn the water from blue to reddish-brown. What draws tourists and admirers would be lost.
A World Bank feasibility study that cost millions of dollars and has been conducted over the past several years will have the final say. It has already been submitted and is expected to be published soon.
Further complicating matters is our relations with Jordan.
Amman was miserably uncooperative in a recent attempt to get the Dead Sea listed with UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. If the two countries could not work together on the UNESCO bid, how will they manage to cooperate in a multi-billion-dollar project? If the Dead Sea is indeed voted one of the New7Wonders, many positive benefits could result.
Indeed, after the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan won the title in 2007, tourist visits nearly tripled.
However, while raising world consciousness about the Dead Sea’s plight is an important and noble goal that should be pursued, there are no easy solutions.