Although the Dead Sea is suffering a severe lack of water in its northern portion, the southern basin, where lucrative mineral extraction industries and most of the lake’s hotels and health spas are located, is suffering from a different kind of water problem altogether. According to a recent article published in the health and environment section of the Jerusalem Post , the Dead Sea’s southern portion is now in danger due to too much water being “pushed up” by layers of salt accumulations underneath that is forming at a rate of nearly 20 cm per year.
Rising natural wonder
Located at more than 1,400 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is one of the earth’s truly natural wonders and is among 28 finalist locations being voted on in the New World 7 Wonders of Nature competition.
But despite efforts being made to save the Dead Sea, including such measures as plans to build a seawater conduit from the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat to the world’s lowest and saltiest lake, the new danger being caused by a build up of water under the foundations of hotels and other tourist spots is an unanticipated irony unanticipated. Scientists and engineers have been working to replenish the waters of the Dead Sea that have been evaporating at a rate of a meter a year.
This new “water problem” is posing a problem for both Israel and Jordan, both of which have lucrative tourism and mining enterprises on their respective sides of the lake. Even though representatives of the two countries, as well as those from the Palestinian Authority have met in the past to find ways to save the Dead Sea, this new problem, as ironic as it is, could result in large 5 Star hotels having to be dismantled and relocated to areas not affected by the rising waters.
This rise is caused by waters being diverted from the lake’s northern portion to create massive salt evaporation pans to produce potassium magnesium chloride, later processed into potassium chloride. Removing these minerals causes the prevalent and heavier sodium chloride, or salt, to settle to the bottom of the pans accumulate, pushing up the water above it.
Efforts being proposed to save the hotels, which are now even more important should the Dead Sea be chosen as one of the 7 New World Natural Wonders, may be “too little – too late” however. According to the JPost article, geological experts and consecutive State Comptroller’s reports have warned that the hotels are running on “borrowed time” and may have already passed the physical deadline of time needed for finding solutions to save them.
Other geological problems that been plaguing the area for years include the formation of massive “sink holes”, by the lakes receding waters. Some of these sink holes are quite large and once literally swallowed a young university student who fell into one.
Being such an important physical asset to Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, it appears that more intense efforts are urgently needed to save the Dead Sea, and the tourism industry there that is so important to all political entities concerned. Perhaps its now time to put more emphasis on the tourism aspect of the area, and less on making in money mineral extraction that is largely responsible for the Dead Sea’s new water problem.
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