Dead Sea dying

Deep in the Jordan Valley bordering Israel lies the Dead Sea, one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth.

Yet, some environmentalists predict that by the year 2050, this wealth of minerals and resources could completely disappear.

James Hamilton, professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, does not entirely agree. “It’s a really complex issue,” he said. “If you look at the data, yes it appears to be dropping at one metre per year on average, but in its deepest parts it’s still 300 metres deep.”

Brent Doberstein, professor of geography at the University of Waterloo agreed saying, “Is it depleting? That’s what it looks like but I doubt it will completely disappear.”

“It’s the kind of system,” Hamilton said, “that’s really hard to get a handle on because there are so many unknowns.” However, research has shown that a third of the Dead Sea is gone already.

“The thing is,” Doberstein said, “is that once this problem gets more serious, it will more likely get attention politically and then people will work on a solution.”
According to Hamilton, there is no water outlet in the area to contribute to the volume of the Dead Sea.

“So all the water that moves into the Dead Sea evaporates and because the water level is dropping, it’s telling us that there is more evaporation going on than water moving in,” he added.

“It’s what’s known as a cumulative environmental impact,” Doberstein stated. “Everyone is taking amounts from the lake in combination with temperature changes causes a net effect on the lake.”

The loss of water has already caused severe damage to the surrounding landscape.

Massive sinkholes are appearing on the land, destroying farms and businesses, putting many people out of work.

Adding to the problem, water from the Dead Sea has been diverted for years in order to feed the industrial, agricultural and domestic needs of the local population.

This repetitive strain on the sea has had a disastrous impact.

Yet it is the extraction of minerals, such as potash and salt deposits, that are depleting the Dead Sea so rapidly.

Hamilton added, “Salt mining in the Dead Sea is a major contribution to the increase in evaporation. If the surface [of the water] were not disturbed by that activity, then the rate of evaporation would be lower.”

“It comes down to what’s more important,” Doberstein said. “Industrial profit? Or keeping the Dead Sea?”

Doberstein suggested his opinions for short term solutions. “I think you need to identify the top five drivers of lake decline. You have industry of mineral resources, residential uses etc. You need to focus on the top five and then think of a long-term solution.”

He continued to say that perhaps the government could “charge for water. People are willing to pay for resources [like this] and charging in turn is a way of water conservation. People won’t waste water they have to pay for.”

It is not simple to do anything of a corrective nature but a solution needs to be found if the Dead Sea is to continue to live.