JIIS Bulletin #8 – December 2011
Refilling the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea water level is dropping at an alarming rate. There was a time “when freshwater flowed into the Dead Sea, mostly from the Jordan River, and this balanced the water volume that evaporated from the lake,” explains Dr. Amos Bein. “But the diversion of water sources for agriculture and domestic use by Israel, Syria, Jordan and others has led to a negative water balance, changing the natural order and leading to the lake’s declining sea level and shrinking surface area.”

Stabilizing and or raising the water level will require a conduit to convey water from the Red Sea or the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea. Bein heads a research team at the Institute’s Environmental Policy Center (EPC) that is analyzing and comparing the cost effectiveness and implications of various alternatives for such a conduit and achieving its declared goals.

Several alternative routes for the conduit were examined; each one is outlined according to its pros and cons, and costs, based on a detailed analysis of its component parts. The EPC project, says Bein, does not claim to identify the most appropriate solution. Rather, its findings are intended to provide a factual dimension, perspective, and critique for use when applicable at the national and international decision-making levels on all matters related to addressing the water deficit of the Dead Sea and its implications.

The EPC project was prepared against the background of the preparation of a World Bank (WB) feasibility study for the Dead Sea water conveyance, which was initiated in 2008 and whose findings will be published in the coming weeks. Dubbed there as the “peace canal,” it is seen as an opportunity for cooperation and will be subject to a regional political agreement. The WB study only examines alternatives relating to the conveyance of water from the Red Sea, whereas the EPC also includes options for a conduit from the Mediterranean Sea.

In light of the complexity of constructing a water conduit to the Dead Sea, and the many uncertainties it entails, the EPC recommends that “if it is decided to pursue the conduit project, implementation should take place on a modular basis to allow for the effective management of uncertainties and the possibility of unanticipated adverse impacts.”

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