The Dead Sea is dieing and the River Jordan becoming a small stream

The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest part of dry land on this planet. The sea itself has no life, apart from some forms of bacteria that can live in its salinity. Salt constitutes about a third of its water content and as a result the Dead Sea is buoyant. When I was young, fifty years ago, I saw pictures of people reading newspapers while effortlessly being kept afloat in the Dead Sea by its high salt content. I resolved to see if it really worked when i visited the Dead Sea, so when I finally did I borrowed an Italian newspaper from a friendly Italian and had my photo taken in the classic pose.Robert in the Dead Sea

Unfortunately the Dead Sea of 1959 was larger than it is today and it is appreciably shrinking year by year. The problem is caused by lack of water.

The River Jordan has religious meaning for three great faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It feeds through the Sea of Galilee dropping through a rift valley until it reaches its end in the Dead Sea, some four hundred metres below sea level. At the Dead Sea the river brings fresh water into an environment that has the largest concentration of salt in the world. The process here is that the water continuously evaporates during the day and for centuries the rate of evaporation was about the same as the rate of fresh water coming in.

The River Jordan forms a national boundary between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Before it forms the boundary it flows through Israel and Israel has reduced its flow rate quite considerably by diverting water for irrigation and by building dams.  This reduced flow has caused the River Jordan to become much narrower than it was and has caused the Dead Sea to become a shrinking sea.

River Jordan

Rights concerning water flowing through rivers are known as Riparian rights. Different countries have different laws about these; in the United Kingdom the law requires owners of land adjacent to rivers not to stop up, obstruct pollute or divert the river. In the United States the law seems to be that whoever gets the water first can make what use they want of it, and so it has been with Israel.

There are two environmental consequences of the diversion of much of the waters from the River Jordan by Israel. The first is that the River Jordan is now a narrow stream. I have taken a picture of it close to the site that is believed to be the original baptismal site, and you can see how narrow the river has become. The second environmental consequence is that the Dead Sea is shrinking and I have photographed an exhibit at a museum by the Dead Sea in Jordan which illustrates how the shape of the Dead Sea has changed.

The Shrinking Dead Sea

Jordan is talking about the possibility of filling the Dead Sea with water pumped from the Red sea. Technically that is possible, but I suspect that it would be a mistake because the environmental consequences of this may be not as expected.

The Dead Sea is a wonderful resource both for Jordan and for Israel. It is a unique environment that we ought to preserve, rather than destroy, and I do hope that measures will be taken to restore both the Dead Sea and the River Jordan to what they were, not so long ago, before it is too late and they are lost forever.

One Response

  1. People who have gained riches from the dead seas naturalness have robbed the land and the sea. They are out right thieves, read the word of God and it will tell you of their demise if they do not turn from their wickedness. Their is a reason for its water and land properties. Some people have chosen the slavery of greed, that they will even destroy others, not knowing the deception, that they are destroying themselves also. You may want to research your idea of red sea into the dead sea, um not good. Just stop stealing for your next bath n body mineral salts/shampoo.

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