By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Preliminary results of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Programme showed that a large-scale conveyance of seawater from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea is technically possible, but might entail risks as well as environmental and social impacts, according to the World Bank.

The conveyance of seawater from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea is technically possible, either through using a tunnel or buried pipelines, the World Bank said in a report.

The report, posted on the World Bank’s website, concluded that mixing seawater and/or desalination brine with the Dead Sea water entails risks, and especially when the amounts exceed 300 million cubic metres (mcm) per year.

Initial plans of the Red-Dead Project suggest pumping one billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly depleting Dead Sea.

The report indicated that a conveyance project would also pose environmental and social impacts, mostly during construction, but indicated that through the various studies, these impacts have been evaluated in terms of alternatives and measures to mitigate, manage and monitor them.

“Although the studies are not yet finalised, we are able to draw a few preliminary conclusions,” the report said, concluding that the project could deliver large amounts of desalinated water using conventional processes.

The estimated cost of a full-scale conveyance project, including the pipes that would carry water to urban centres, would exceed $10 billion, the organisation said.

The World Bank added in the report that in the event of the beneficiary parties, which include Jordan, Israel and Palestine, deciding to go ahead with the identified water conveyance, there would have to be further environmental and social assessments.

The study examined the feasibility of establishing a desalination plant with the capacity of 850mcm per year at the southern end of the Dead Sea to produce desalinated water.

“Given that the feasibility study states that municipal water consumption in Jordan in 2007 was 231mcm… A plant of this size would substantially address this accessibility issue,” the report said.

Officials at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation were not available for comment on the preliminary results of the study programme, despite several attempts by The Jordan Times.

The World Bank said that the final draft of the reports on the study programme should be available to the public on its website in early 2012. The beneficiary parties will then hold six public consultation meetings in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

“The objective of the public consultations is to receive feedback and suggestions from stakeholders on the draft results and preliminary findings of the study programme. These comments will then be taken into account in the final reports,” the World Bank said.

The meetings are scheduled to be held in Amman, Aqaba, Eilat, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Jericho.

The study programme involved the preparation of five interrelated studies: a feasibility study, an environmental and social assessment, a study of alternatives (which examines other options available to the beneficiary parties to address the degradation of the Dead Sea and the production of additional potable water by means other than the identified water conveyance option), a Red Sea modelling study and a Dead Sea modelling study.

The studies were led by the World Bank and 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.