The Dead Sea now lies 424 meters below sea level, and the water is dropping by one meter a year. In certain places, the water's edge has receded a full kilometer from shore. More than 3,000 sinkholes have opened around the perimeter—in recent years, about one every two days. Some fill with brine; others do not. Image: Eitan Haddok
- The Dead Sea, 424 meters below sea level, is dropping by a meter a year as feedwaters are tapped for irrigation and seawater is evaporated for minerals extraction.
- Thousands of sinkholes are forming as receding underground saltwater allows the ground above to collapse.
- A 180-kilometer system of pipes could supply needed brine from the Red Sea. Scientists are testing how the mixing waters might alter sea life.
More In This Article
- Photo Album
The Dead Sea is a place of mystery: the lowest surface on Earth, the purported site of Sodom and Gomorrah, a supposed font of curative waters and, despite its name, a treasure trove of unusual microbial life. Yet its future is anything but a mystery. After centuries of stability—owed to a delicate equilibrium between freshwater supply from the Jordan River and evaporation under the relentless Middle Eastern sun—the lake is now disappearing.
Jordanians to the east, Israelis to the west, and Syrians and Lebanese to the north are pumping so much freshwater from the river catchment that almost none reaches the sea. Israel and Jordan are also siphoning water from the lake to extract valuable minerals, hastening the decline. Thousands of sinkholes have formed in the receding sea’s wake, curtailing tourism and development along the border because no one can predict where the next gaping hole will suddenly open, potentially swallowing buildings, roads or people.
This article was originally published with the title Can the Dead Sea Live?.