Is the Dead Sea Dying?

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The most startling part of my trip to Israel was not the fact I was able to sleep for half of the 12 hour flight in economy. It wasn’t that for the first time in years, the landscape didn’t remind me of other places I’d been. It was learning that the southern portion of the Dead Sea is drying up and the hotels only had waterfront because of a canal that was built to channel water from the North.

Canal connecting North South Dead Sea

From the road you can see that the water has receded, but it was a little hard to believe that the northern and southern ends were no longer connected.

But sure enough, from the top of Masada, I could definitely see the land mass dividing the two sections.

View of divided dead sea from Masada

And then a visit to Wikipedia afterwards turned up even more enlightening satellite photos.

The_Dead_Sea_1972-2011_-_NASA_Earth_Observatory courtesy of wikipedia

So of course I immediately wanted to know why the dead sea was drying up! My friend’s theory (which was then confirmed by several recent articles) was that the flow from the sea’s sole source of water, the Jordan River, has been dwindling as more and more water is diverted for irrigation and municipal needs.

One of the proposed solutions is to connect the Red Sea and Dead Sea with underground tunnels, generating electricity and restoring the water levels. But that apparently comes with its own concerns of introducing new bacteria or other unintended by products. The whole situation was incredibly interesting to me and not something I’d realized was happening.

If you’re interested in reading more (from better informed minds than my own), there are tons of stories on it, including this informative, though biased, article on Slate and of course, the wikipedia page.


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