The Dead Sea—A Natural Wonder of the World


Dead SeaHere’s a riddle for you: A man who could not swim fell off a boat in the middle of the sea without a life preserver. No one noticed him missing for 30 minutes. They found him and saved him. How was it he didn’t drown?

Of course, the answer is that he fell into the Dead Sea.

Located 429 meters below sea level, and 304 meters deep, the Dead Sea is the lowest point and the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With a 34.2% salinity, it is 9.6 times saltier than the ocean and its density of 1.24kg/liter is the reason why our non-swimmer would float instead of drowning.

Sitting between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is 50 kilometers long and, at its widest point, 15 kilometers wide.

Rich with minerals, the Dead Sea was a spa for Herod the Great, a source of asphalt for Egyptians, and today it provides potash for fertilizers. It is no wonder that the Dead Sea is considered by many one of the Natural Wonders of the World. [1]

The Shrinking Sea

The main tributary of the Dead Sea is the Jordan River. Since the 1960’s Israel and Jordan have been diverting the Jordan River away from the Dead Sea for drinking water, agricultural irrigation, and other commercial uses. In addition, the mining of minerals has drained a serious portion of the Dead Sea.

By 2015 the Dead Sea’s level had dropped more than 30 meters since the mid 1970’s and it is currently dropping at the rate of over a meter a year. [2]

With the completion of the Degania and Alumot dams there has been virtually no water flowing from the Jordan River to replenish the Dead Sea. In fact the problem is so serious that the sea actually divided into two parts, with the southern part used as a source of potash for both Israel and Jordan. [3]

Sink Holes—The Dead Sea’s Deadliest Dilemma

As the salty water recedes, fresh ground water is dissolving layers of salt and causing holes in the sea above which sinkholes are formed.

Today, there are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 sinkholes. According to Eli Raz from the Dead Sea and Arava Research Center while many of the sinkholes are small, there are others that can reach a size of 25 meters deep and 40 meters wide.

Not only is this a danger for bathers and buildings around the Dead Sea, there is a potential danger to Route 90 that continues south to the city of Eilat. There have alreay been signs of crackingand dipping on the eastern bank of the highway.[4]

For some amazing aerial footage of the Dead Sea’s sinkholes, click HERE.

The Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit (RSDSC)

After decades of talks, in December 2015 an agreement was signed between Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to build a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It was hailed as a win/win/win agreement.  In addition to replenishing the Dead Sea it would include a hydroelectric factory and desalinaton plant that would serve both Aqaba in Jordon and Eilat in Israel. The Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Preservation at the time, Silvan Shalom, stated that this was the most important agreement since the signing of the peace treaty with Jordan. [5] However, due to ensuing political tensions between Jordan and Israel,18 months later the10 billion dollar project still has not started. [6] The official Israeli position concerning the RSDSC is that it is still alive and kicking, but there is still no date to start the project.

Environmentalist Concerns

There are enviromentalists that have been against the RSDSC project from the beginning, for a number of reasons. For example, according to Gidon Bromberg, Co-Director of EcoPeace, an enviromentalist group from Israel, Jordan and Palestine, by the time the water travels through the proposed 227 kilometer pipeline, the amount of water added to the Dead Sea will be hardly a trickle.[7]

Bromberg suggests that there are alternatives to the expensive and inefficient pipeline that would be uphill halfway to reach the lowest point in the world. By building more desalination plants in Israel, the need for fresh water from the Sea of Galilee would diminish, allowing the opening of the dams that prevent the Jordan River from flowing into the Dead Sea. Or, while there is a lot of work involved in cleaning the Jordan River, it would be environmentally safer and more economical than the proposed pipeline. [7]

Final Note

It is not important if the solution to the shrinking Dead Sea and its surrounding sinkholes is the RSDCS or the re-opening of the Jordan River. The point is that if a solution is not found, then this amazing wonder of nature will be nothing more than a large salt pit.


[1] New 7 Wonders of Nature, Dead Sea, January, 2018
[2] Kenneth Pletcher, Encyclopdia Britannica, Dead Sea, May 1, 2018
[3] Sonia Gorodeisky, Dead Sea level falling 1.2 meters per year, February 13, 2018
[4] Tanya Lewis, Why Dangerous Sinkholes Keep Appearing Along the Dead Sea, April 6, 2017
[5] Justin Jalil, Dead Sea Sinkholes growing at alarming rate, March 21, 2015
[6] Hussam Hussein, Is the Red Sea – Dead Sea canal project still happening?, January 18, 2018
[7] Melanie Lidman, Experts say Red Sea – Dead Sea pipeline isn’t worth its salt, August 16, 2017


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