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The Shrinking Dead Sea: Causes and Efforts at Restoration Stephen McCaffrey Pacific/McGeorge School of Law Transboundary Freshwater Ecosystem Restoration: The Role of Law, Process and Lawyers The Dead Sea: A Piece of World Heritage Unique cultural, religious and political significance

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The shrinking dead sea causes and efforts at restoration l.jpg

The Shrinking Dead Sea:Causes and Efforts at Restoration

Stephen McCaffrey

Pacific/McGeorge School of Law

Transboundary Freshwater Ecosystem Restoration: The Role of Law, Process and Lawyers


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The Dead Sea: A Piece of World Heritage

  • Unique cultural, religious and political significance

  • Known to Aristotle

  • Lowest point on Earth

  • Actually a lake





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Five Jordan River Riparians

  • Lebanon

  • Israel

  • Syria

  • Jordan

  • Palestine


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An Arid Region

  • All three lower riparians (Jordan, Palestine & Israel) are in a state of “absolute water scarcity”

    • Israel: 330 m3/year per capita

    • Jordan: 160 “

    • Palestine 70 “


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Dead Sea: Key Characteristics

  • Lowest point on Earth – ca. 400 m/1340 feet below sea level

  • High salinity: ca. 10 times that of sea water (33% vs. 3% in Mediterranean)

  • As of 1996, ca. 50 mi. long and 11 mi. wide at widest point


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Why Is the Dead Sea Shrinking?

  • Two reasons: evaporation and upstream diversions

  • Evaporation: ca. 2 billion m3/year (but nothing new)

  • Upstream diversions:

    • Lebanon: 10 mcm/yr

    • Jordan: ca. 320 mcm/yr

    • Syria: avg. of 260 mcm/yr

    • Israel: ca. 700 mcm/yr – out of the basin

    • Palestine: 0

  • Israel’s diversions into the Lower Jordan: saline and waste water


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Efforts at Restoration:The “Red-Dead Canal”

  • History

    • Med -Dead Canal first proposed in 19th c

    • Israelis originally proposed Med-Dead and Jordanians the Red-Dead – originally to generate electricity

    • 1996 study by Harza Engineering of Chicago proposed production of freshwater via a Red-Dead Canal


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A Red-Dead Conveyance: Current Impetus

  • Jordan and World Bank the main promoters; Israel also directly involved

  • 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development: Jordan and Israel state “shared vision” for a Red-Dead “Peace Conduit”

    • Saving the Dead Sea

    • Making affordable drinking water available

    • Building a symbol of peace and cooperation in the Middle East


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Red-Dead Canal: Features

  • Canal would carry saltwater from the Red Sea 180 km down the Wadi Araba into the Dead Sea

  • Would refill Dead Sea to level of 1930s over period of 10-20 years

  • When Dead Sea reaches its historic levels and inflow matches evaporation rate, flow of canal will be reduced

  • Construction would take 10 yrs and cost ca. $5 billion



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Benefits of a Red-Dead Canal

  • (Water supply project with environmental benefits or environmental project with water supply benefits?)

  • Environmental: Restoration of Dead Sea

  • Water supply: 850 mcm/yr to Amman (2/3) and Israel/Palestine (1/3)

  • Economic: tourism, potash & salt industries

  • “Peace dividend” (?)


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Problems: Factual

  • Cost of water: ca. $1.30 per cubic meter once pumped uphill to Amman and Jerusalem

  • Possible adverse environmental effects – e.g.:

    • Mixing of Red Sea and Dead Sea waters

    • Possible impacts of Red Sea coral reefs;

    • Possible impacts on wildlife migration in Wadi Araba


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Problems: Legal

  • No notification of upper riparians (Lebanon & Syria) as required by international practice

  • Dispute over Oct. 2003 TORs for Feasibility Study

    • Original Bank draft accepted by Jordan and Palestinians but not Israel, which insisted on eliminating all references to the PA as a “riparian”

  • Palestinian concern that acceptance of desalinated water will be used by Israel to avoid reallocating surface and ground water shared with Palestinians


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Conclusions

  • It looks as though the Dead Sea will be restored to its former level, given strong support especially by Jordan and also by World Bank

  • If project seems far-fetched, it just goes to show how important freshwater is in the region and the lengths international actors will go to in order to produce it

  • The jury is still out, and may be for some time to come, on the project’s

    • economic viability and

    • environmental effects



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