Why Is the Dead Sea, Dead?

First, some important information must be mentioned: the Dead Sea (or „Salty Sea”) is a closed continental sea (it does not communicate with the Planetary Ocean), located in a tectonic basin in the Middle East, between Israel and Jordan, close to the Mediterranean Sea. It is 67 km long, 17 km wide and 417 meters below sea level. The salt content of the water is 33%, which ranks the Dead Sea on the second place among the saltiest water systems, after the African Lake Asal whose salinity is 35%. So here is the explanation of both the toponymy and the reason why aquatic organisms cannot survive here.

deadseaAs the rainfall in this area is scarce, the only fresh water source which supplies the sea is the Jordan River. Until the 1970s, the river was discharging a volume of 1.5 billion m3 of water each year. Due to the irrigation systems which were built in the area, we are now speaking of generally 80 million m3 of water annually. These data are important, as the concentration of salts and the environmental capacity of sustaining aquatic organisms depend on the amount of fresh water reaching the sea. Currently, the lake is populated only by some bacteria and, in the 80s, some red algae have been reported after a wetter season. Would the Jordan River have a larger and more constant water flow, the Dead Sea water would be more clearly stratified as far as the saline concentration is concerned, thus allowing the existence of certain fish or algae in surface waters. On the contrary, at a lower flow, as it is today, the amount of evaporated water is higher than the “inputs” of fresh water; the sea surface has been decreasing by approximately 1 meter annually, from 1970 until the present day and the sea level has lowered by 23 meters.

dead-sea-400x400After having lost a third of its surface, the Dead Sea is threatened with extinction, an event expected to happen at the middle of the XXI century. The rescue project supported by the World Bank aims to build a canal between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in order to replenish the latter. The plan is of gigantic proportions and stipulates the construction of a plant on the Red Sea, to pump water, followed by the construction of a 180 km long canal to the Dead Sea. In addition to its function of supplying the Dead Sea, the canal will also have a touristic value. The authorities involved in its construction will create artificial lakes which will allow setting up tourist bases in the desert.

The expert opinions on this project are very diverse and contradictory, with concerns about the mixture of the two seas’ waters, which would completely destroy the Dead Sea through the occurrence of hydrogen sulfide. Accurate forecasts cannot be yet made…

Until then, you can enjoy the full therapeutic properties of the Dead Sea water, and, if you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to visit these places full of history! More on the minerals, mud and salt found in this area and their therapeutic properties, here.315_5446_32

The article was written by Razvan Spiridon and translated by Magda Baidan.

You can read the Romanian version of this article here.

Info sources: http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marea_Moart%C4%83, http://regiuni.famouswhy.ro/marea_moarta_sau_lacul_asflatit/, http://www.crestinortodox.ro/pelerinaje/marea-moarta-120931.html

Image sources: http://www.crestinortodox.ro/pelerinaje/marea-moarta-120931.html, http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306921_2,00.html, http://www.bibleistrue.com/qna/pqna68.htm

Despre autor
Doctor in Geografie si amenajare teritoriala al Universitatii din Lille, pasionata de natura si de calatorii.
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