Do a quick Google Images search of “Dead Sea.” The results will likely yield plenty of pictures of the sea’s signature blue waters, a few maps, and, of course, snapshots of people just sitting around – sitting around effortlessly on top of the water, that is. This environmental oddity – the lowest and the saltiest body of water on earth – sustains no life, yet it is a source of intrigue, inspiration, and income for people around the world. Many think the sea (with its buoyant, salty splendor) and the surrounding mud have healing powers. Some value it for its religious or historical significance. Others look at the sea as a means to an end; they extract the sea’s mineral-rich sediment and sell its byproducts for fertilizer, pesticides, water treatment chemicals and more.
All the things that make the Dead Sea the stuff of legend, science, and tourism are at risk – from the both current situation and possibly from the proposed solution.
The Dead Sea is dying. It relies on many small tributaries, but its main supplier of water is the Jordan River. Population growth in the region means more and more water is being diverted from its path towards the Dead Sea to other uses such as irrigation and drinking water. Evaporation, which makes the sea special by keeping salinity high, is also putting the Sea at risk, and the hot, arid climate and practices such as mineral extraction only exacerbate the rate of evaporation. Without an ample supply of water from the Jordan, the water level is dropping at an alarming rate (an estimated 1 meter per year).