By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The impact of abstracting millions of cubic metres of seawater from the Red Sea will be negligible, according to the results of the Red Sea Modelling Study.

The study assessed effects of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project on the environment of the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat, especially since the mega scheme seeks to pump a maximum of two billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea.

The assessment of pumping on the marine environment focused on five possible effects: modification of heat flux, changes in water current intensity and circulation, local damage to benthic communities, changes in nutrient fluxes and entrainment of larvae and consequent repercussions to connectivity.

“Our physical and chemical oceanographic study suggests that the effects on heat flux and on nutrient dynamics will be negligible,” said the report, posted on the World Bank’s website.

The study, however, found that construction of the pumping station will undoubtedly cause substantial damage to local benthic communities over several hundreds of square metres.

“Based on above assessments, our findings are for a “go” decision, as long as the intake configuration, location, and depth are selected properly,” the report said.

To minimise the effect on the environment, the report recommended that the pumping intake be located at the eastern candidate site in Jordan.

Regarding the exchange of water between the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat and the northern Red Sea through the Strait of Tiran, the report indicated that it would likely be imperceptible, while the expected effect of abstraction on the heat budget of the gulf is also expected to be negligible.

“Since the proposed maximum abstraction rate is less than 0.5 per cent of the exchange of water through the strait, the impacts on the gulf-wide scale will be minimal,” the report said.

The Red Sea Modelling Study is part of a programme led by the World Bank and was implemented by international consulting companies and panels of experts in various fields.

The Red-Dead project is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.
The project aims to raise water levels in the shrinking lake from 408 metres to 315 metres below sea level.
Over the past two decades alone, the Dead Sea level plunged more than 30 metres, with experts warning that it could dry up within the next 50 years.