The Dead Sea Drying Up and Getting Saltier

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Man reading a newspaper in the Dead Sea

A group of scientists found the reason why the Dead Sea, the planet’s most historic salt lake, is drying up and getting saltier. A study found the lake retreats by three feet every year. Researchers believe excessive tourism prevents the pool from refreshing its water.

The lake’s water has a traditional therapeutic and cosmetic use. Unfortunately, the inflow of fresh water dwindled in recent years. However, the Dead Sea is not the only reservoir that is drying up. The U.S.’ Ogallala aquifer is also dwindling because of poor management.

Other lakes cannot replenish because of prolonged droughts and climate change effects. Nevertheless, there is something humanity can do to save these reservoirs and the Dead Sea too.

Tourism a Big Problem

The Dead Sea’s name is related to the fact that high concentrations of salt prevent any living lifeform from making it a home. Another particularity is its low altitude. The lake is located 1,400 feet under the sea level – the lowest point in the world.

Tourists have flocked to this site for thousands of years since the water’s high density allows even unexperienced swimmers to just float on the lake’s surface (see photo). The lake is also known for its water’s detox properties and “healing powers.”

At the time Jesus Christ was spreading His message of salvation, the Dead Sea was one of the planet’s first SPA resorts. Today’s skincare companies extract minerals from the salty lake to boost the efficacity of their products. However, as these products are gaining more traction, the lake’s problems multiply.

Until recently, natural sources such as the Jordan River replenished the lake on a constant basis. Half a century ago, however, neighboring countries diverted such streams to their cities due to severe droughts. So, because rainfall is extremely scarce, the lake has no way of replenishing itself. But as the water evaporates, salt concentrations are rising.

EcoPeace Middle East explained that the main cause for the Dead Sea’s slow death is the lack of water. Traditional sources such as the Jordan River no longer reach the lake. Instead, local populations use the river for their domestic consumption and inefficient farming efforts.

Lake is ‘Loved to Death’

Even though tourism helped the region flourish, tourist attractions and resorts are blocking the remaining water sources. Additionally, instead of fresh water, the lake is flooded with sewage. One expert noted the lake is “loved to death” just like the Yellowstone National Park.

Researchers found that the lake’s salinity reached 34% which is unusually high even for the Dead Sea. And since the lake cannot host wildlife, its demise would spell the doom of local tourism and communities.

On the other hand, the wetlands around the Sea represents the home of several endangered species including the Dead Sea Sparrow, leopards, hyrax and ibex. Millions of migratory birds use the wetlands as resting and breeding sites.

Conservationists think limiting tourism in the area could benefit these animals and save the Dead Sea. And better water management could solve the rest of the problems.

If authorities fail to save the region, the population could follow in the footsteps of Mexico. The Central American state used up groundwater supplies in the valley it sits on through reckless management. Now, residents across large swaths of the state get their water from water trucks as the taps dry up.

Image Source: Wikimedia

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