The future of the Dead Sea is in doubt. In the 1950s, the lake’s surface area was about a thousand square kilometres; today, it’s less than seven hundred and still falling. The water level has already dropped by a startling 30m, and is continuing to fall by a metre a year. The problem is that greater and greater inroads have been made into the lake’s freshwater sources: today, far more water evaporates from the lake than flows into it. There are several dams across the River Jordan (as well as across its tributary, the Yarmouk), and – as part of its national water-conservation programme – Jordan has dammed all the major rivers in its territory that formerly flowed directly into the Dead Sea, including the Zarqa Ma’in, the Mujib and the Hasa. In addition, both Israel and Jordan have developed major mineral and potash industries at the southern end of the lake which depend on large-scale evaporation for production.

Since the 1970s, Lynch’s Strait, a channel of water that formerly connected the northern and southern parts of the lake, has dried out, turning the Lisan peninsula into a landbridge. Dangerous sinkholes are opening up in the soft ground on both shores. If things continue as they are, some estimates say the Dead Sea will dry up completely in fifty years.

In 2002, the Israeli and Jordanian governments called for concerted action to save the Dead Sea. They launched a plan – with the Palestinian Authority – to build the so-called Red-Dead Canal, to bring seawater 250km from the Red Sea at Aqaba to replenish the Dead Sea. The 400m drop in altitude would mean that large quantities of hydroelectric power could be generated, and there would also be shared desalination plants creating up to 850 million cubic metres a year of potable water by reverse osmosis, thus substantially easing the region’s critical shortage of water. The brine residue left after desalination would then be pumped into the Dead Sea to restore its natural water level. At the time of writing results of a World Bank feasibility study on the canal project had not yet been made public.

However, not everyone is happy. Friends of the Earth Middle East (w foeme.org), a coalition of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian environmental groups, has voiced several concerns – not least that it would take ten years to implement the Red-Dead plan whereas the Dead Sea needs immediate action. In addition, as it currently stands, the Red-Dead scheme allows the unplanned exploitation of the Dead Sea’s resources to continue, with no bar on the numbers of hotels being built, and no imperative for sustainable development. There have, as yet, also been no detailed environmental studies on how the addition of huge quantities of seawater might affect the Dead Sea’s delicate ecological balance – or on the possible impact of a pipeline breach in the open desert. Time will tell whether the Red-Dead Canal is the answer.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Jordan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Discovering Amman: why you should stay a while

Discovering Amman: why you should stay a while

One of the world’s top adventure spots, tourists to Jordan tend to zip right through Amman and head straight to the mountains, Petra, or the fabulous burnt-or…

16 Apr 2018 • Eleanor Ross insert_drive_file Article
Video: 5 reasons to hike the Jordan Trail

Video: 5 reasons to hike the Jordan Trail

Despite being a safe country with no shortage of breathtaking historical sites, friendly people and some of the world's most stunning wilderness, Jordan is ofte…

23 Jan 2018 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Rediscovering Jordan: why the time to go is now

Rediscovering Jordan: why the time to go is now

It’s one of the world’s top adventure destinations – and one of our top 18 places to visit in 2018 – and yet, in recent years, tourists have been es…

22 Jan 2018 • Sarah Reid insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs