Help save the Dead Sea before it's too late

The Dead Sea is shrinking to its lowest level in recorded history.

A beach at the Dead Sea (photo credit: ARIK BAREL)
A beach at the Dead Sea
(photo credit: ARIK BAREL)
If there is one positive outcome of the pandemic, it is the environment.
The planet is breathing with less pollution. Animals are wandering freely in quarantined cities. And by coincidence, just this year, Israel witnessed a late rainy winter, with the national lake – the Sea of Galilee – suddenly almost completely filled for the first time in three decades.
Yet while streams flourish, the Dead Sea is shrinking to its lowest level in recorded history. Freshwater remains the most valuable asset in our region and soon to the world.
For the first time in the modern era, the epic coronavirus global crisis has managed to shift humanity, with all its diversity, shapes, colors and forms into one universal frail organism, affecting nations worldwide with devastating results.
With more than two billion people confined at home hoping and praying for a brighter and healthier future, many of us are taking this time to reflect as our lives have been turned upside down. Now is the time to show our appreciation to the surrounding nature and environment that has, for the most part, been overlooked and oftentimes forgotten.
The next shared global crisis is just around the corner, a crisis of a water-stressed world due to climate change and overpopulation.
The 21st century is the century of water,” as Ishak Alaton, a visionary Turkish businessman, said. A whopping 780 million people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water. According to UN estimates, a thousand children die daily due to unhealthy water conditions. Less than 1% of all surface water on earth is accessible, drinkable fresh water.
For the past 21 years, the Middle East has been experiencing a continuous drought that has put an enormous strain on scarce water resources. It ran out of water a number of years ago, making it the first major region to run out of water in recorded history. Currently it is the world's most water-scarce region, with 17 countries below the water poverty line set by the United Nations. The Middle East consists of 6% of the world's population, yet has just 1% of the world's freshwater resources.
According to World Bank estimates, if things continue "business as usual," 60% of the region will face high to extremely high water stress by 2040. Scientists have concluded that climate change will hit the region 50% harder than anywhere else on the planet.
According to the UN, by 2025, two thirds of the world’s population could be “water-stressed.” The US government predicts that by then, 40 out of 50 states in the US – and 60% of the Earth’s land surface – will soon face alarming gaps between available water and the growing demand for it.
By 2050, global water demand is projected to increase by 55%. As global water friction grows, unprecedented domestic and international pressure is expected to be directed at water-rich regions, leading to political, economic, social and environmental stress.
Save the Dead Sea
The historical flow to the Dead Sea includes water flowing from the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, which made up the primary water source for the Dead Sea. Over the last few years, water flowing from the Jordan has been down to a meager 10% from its original water flow. The remainder is diverted for drinking water, irrigation, hydroelectric power and industry by Israel, Syria and Jordan.
No government office is working today to restore and rehabilitate this flow to save the Dead Sea with its most natural solution. Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Syria and the Jordanians are more concerned about their water source independence.
The Red Sea-Dead Sea project
While the multibillion-dollar Red Sea-Dead Sea water conveyance project is not necessarily the best economic, environmental or technical choice, it seems that it might be the best political choice. The largest facility in the world for desalinated water is planned for this project. Its first priority is to provide desalinated drinkable water to the thirsty population of Jordan, one of the four driest countries in the world.
The signed agreements between Jordan, the PA and Israel turned this project into the symbol of Middle East cooperation and coexistence, according to the World Bank. The Dead Sea cause has the ability to inspire the world with advanced water technology solutions and water management.
Desalinization is practiced in 150 countries worldwide and the International Desalination Association estimates that more than 300 million people around the world depend on desalinated water for some or all of their daily needs. According to the World Bank calculations, desalination in the Middle East and North Africa, accounts for nearly half of the world’s desalination capacity, making it the largest desalination market in the world.
Unfortunately, this project may take over a decade to attain while complex arrays of environmental, economic and political factors are causing the Dead Sea to shrink at an alarming rate.
In summary, clean and drinkable water is the most valuable asset in the Middle East as well as for the whole world. Before it can be used to rehabilitate rivers and other water resources, water is a fundamental basic human right and will always be the top priority.
April 2020 will mark four years since I began exploring and documenting the Dead Sea with time-lapse photography, as never seen before. I have led and promoted hundreds of eco-boat tours on the Dead Sea, showing the dramatic changes evolving from the alarming shrinkage and drying up of the Dead Sea while also uncovering the magic and beauty of Israel's world wonder.
One course of action that can be done to preserve this water treasure is to document and publicize the environmental drama unfolding daily through education and visual arts. It is time to protect these images before it is too late.
The Dead Sea Revival Project and the Dead Sea Virtual Museum in partnership with Gurushots are pleased to announce a Global Earth Day initiative, inviting anyone who has ever visited the Dead Sea to share their favorite photos at: https://gurushots.com/challenge/dead-sea1/details.

The writer is founder of the Dead Sea Revival Project.