Dead Sea Likely to Recede Back to Lowest Point Ever, Israeli Researchers Warn

With rainfall modest, the sea dropped 16 centimeters last month, compared with an average of between 10 and 12 centimeters, the hydrological service says

Dead Sea coast.
© Genlady | Dreamstime.com

The Dead Sea has been dropping at a greater pace this year and will likely fall back to its record low of 2011 when it fell 1.5 meters (4.9 feet), the Israel Hydrological Service said in a report.

With rainfall low, last month the sea dropped 16 centimeters, compared with the multiyear average of between 10 and 12 centimeters. Since the start of the hydrological year, which begins in October, the sea has dropped 87 centimeters. By October the number could reach 1.37 meters, experts say.

The Dead Sea's level

>> The Dead Sea: A dramatic look at Israel's endangered natural wonder <<

With rainfall amounts low this year, less water has been flowing in from streams, mainly the Jordan River. Moreover, most of the river’s sources in Jordan and Syria are used by those countries.

The drop in sea level also stems from the use of seawater by factories in Israel and Jordan. The amount of water pumped by such plants varies year to year; researchers believe that, on average, factories in both countries contribute a 50-centimeter fall in the sea level annually.

>> Down and out in a Dead Sea hippie colony <<

For the coming years no solution is on tap to change the situation significantly. Israel and Jordan are cooperating on a project in Jordan that will pump water with high salt concentrations into the Dead Sea from a desalination plant in Aqaba on the Jordanian side of the Red Sea.

The projected amount to be pumped is 200 million cubic meters, only a quarter of the amount required to stop the sea level from falling. This number might be increased in future years, but it’s not yet clear when and how much more water would be pumped.

The drop in sea level is causing more sinkholes to appear in areas where the sea is receding. These areas are penetrated by fresh groundwater that dissolves underground salt blocks. This creates hollow spaces into which the ground collapses from above.

At a recent conference, the hydrological service said 6,000 sinkholes had been identified so far, and researchers at the institute mapped high-risk areas for sinkholes to form. This has enabled the planning of changes to roads and trails near the shore.

Researchers also reported that flash floods after rainstorms enhanced flow underground, which accelerates the sinking of the ground and the formation of sinkholes.