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Is the Dead Sea Really Evaporating?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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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 sea its unique properties, but the evaporation has become unsustainable because of the diversion of fresh water from the river which once fed the body of water. 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 this body of water 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon129566 — On Nov 24, 2010

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

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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