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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

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
The Dead Sea: A Piece of World Heritage
  • Unique cultural, religious and political significance
  • Known to Aristotle
  • Lowest point on Earth
  • Actually a lake
five jordan river riparians
Five Jordan River Riparians
  • Lebanon
  • Israel
  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Palestine
an arid region
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 “
dead sea key characteristics
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
why is the dead sea shrinking
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
efforts at restoration the red dead canal
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
a red dead conveyance current impetus
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
red dead canal features
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
benefits of a red dead canal
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” (?)
problems factual
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
problems legal
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
conclusions
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