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Is the Dead Sea Really Evaporating?

The salts of the Dead Sea accumulate on the shore.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2014
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Studies of the Dead Sea or Salt Sea, a unique geological feature between Israel and Jordan, have revealed that it is indeed evaporating at an alarming rate. Evaporation is actually part of the process which gives the Dead Sea its unique properties, but the evaporation has become unsustainable because of the diversion of fresh water from the river which once fed the Dead Sea. In the early twenty-first century, it was estimated that the Dead Sea could essentially vanish within several decades at the current evaporation rate. This has led to concerns among environmentalists and the people who live in the region, since the Dead Sea is ecologically very intriguing, and it is a large source of revenue for both of the neighboring governments.

The Dead Sea is a massive inland lake. Two things make the Dead Sea intriguing. The first is the hypersalinity of the water, which has a high concentration of mineral salts from the Earth's crust. The concentration is so high that the salts often pile up on the shore, and people swimming in the sea bob like corks. The second point of interest is the fact that the Dead Sea is slowly sinking, because it is located in a rift between two tectonic plates. As the plates pull apart, the rift deepens, and the Dead Sea sinks lower; around one foot (30 centimeters) every year.

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The body of water first got its name when visitors noticed a lack of life in the area. It was believed that no organisms could survive in the extremely salty conditions. Some extremophilic bacteria have since proved this theory to be untrue, but there is certainly a dearth of large animal and plant life in the region.

The Dead Sea was originally connected to the ocean through the Red Sea, but over millions of years, it slowly became an inland lake. The largest supply of water for the Dead Sea is the River Jordan, which carries water into the Sea to replace water lost through evaporation. As water evaporates, it concentrates the salts in the sea, maintaining a high level of salinity. Unfortunately, both Israel and Jordan use the river extensively as a water supply for irrigation and municipal water stores. As a result, by the time the Jordan reaches the Dead Sea, it is a heavily depleted trickle. This trickle is not enough to replace the water lost from the slowly evaporating Dead Sea, and as a result, the Sea is shrinking.

The problem is compounded by extraction and evaporation of water from the Dead Sea to extract the valuable mineral salts. The salts are believed to be beneficial for human health, which is why people flock to the Dead Sea as a vacation destination. They can also be processed to yield useful chemical compounds. However, extensive evaporation also contributes to the lowering water level.

Ultimately, evaporation will cause the Dead Sea to reach a point of such high salinity that it will essentially stop evaporating. However, the size of the Sea would shrink dramatically. Over thousands of years, the remaining water would be slowly extracted, leaving a large salt deposit behind. To save the Dead Sea, the neighboring nations need to change their water usage policies, or consider importing water through canals to refresh the rapidly shrinking and irreplaceable Dead Sea.

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anon129566
Post 1

It is Israel who is using the water of Jordan River, and not both countries as mentioned above.

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