Dreams and Plans for the Dead Sea
The amount of water supplied by the River Jordan, the streams’
springs, and the floodwaters on both sides of the Dead Sea, does not equal the
very high evaporation rate on the lake. This problem, unfortunately, is also due
to man’s intervention. Much of the water supplied by tributaries has been
diverted for the water required for drinking and agriculture by the adjoining
countries. This, together with the natural evaporation rate, has resulted in the
diminishing of the water level on the Dead Sea to almost one meter a year.
Reversing this problem means that people will either have to
stop using the water of the tributaries, or will have to bring water into the
Dead Sea from a different source. The latter solution could also support other
projects such as the generation of electricity, using solar energy and/or a
potential height difference, water desalination and tourism.
One of the alarming results of the drop in the Dead Sea water
level is the creation of sinkholes along the shore line. This phenomenon has
caused severe damage to property and, in some cases, has even resulted in
accidents. These sinkholes are created in areas where the regressing sea have
left layers of salt underneath the soil. Fresh water from the springs dissolve
the layers of salt to a point that the upper non-salty layer becomes thinner and
sinks. Some of the holes reach a size of about 40 meters in diameter and some
have reached a depth of about 25 meters. More than a thousand sinkholes have
already been identified and more are being created. This emphasizes the need to
raise the sea level and the sooner the better.
The most recent experiments on exploitation of solar energy,
which have been successfully conducted in the Dead Sea region for some time, are
based on an interesting phenomenon that is found in very few places on earth.
The sunrays striking a shallow body of water penetrate to the
bottom, are absorbed, and cause the water to warm up. The lighter, warm water
rises and discharges its heat into the air; then it cools and descends once
more. But when the water body contains salts at a concentration which gradually
increases with depth, the warm water at the bottom cannot rise owing to its high
specific gravity. In this case, a kind of hothouse forms, where the sunrays
penetrate the top layers of water, are absorbed in the bottom and stored there.
The lower layer of water with its uniform salinity acts as a large heat
accumulator, able to store it for a lengthy period. Heat loss is minimal, as the
bottom insulates below and the water, a poor heat conductor, insulates above.
|The solar ponds are based on this physical principle, with the
addition of a technique that is brilliant in its simplicity. The pond consists
of three layers; the warm water of the bottom storage layer is pumped through
pipes to a heat converter consisting of a network of tubes containing an organic
material with a very low boiling point. The vaporized organic fluid turns
turbines which are connected to a generator that creates electricity. The vapor
reaches a condenser activated by the cold water of the top layer of the pool;
this cools the organic fluid, which then returns to the vaporizer for repeat
use. The warm water in the vaporizer that boiled the organic fluid then cools
and descends to the lowest layer of the solar pool where it will be heated up
The formation of waves by wind, which results in the mixing of
layers of different density, is prevented by nets cast over the surface of the
pool and the water surface is thereby kept smooth.
A trial plant, that was able to provide 150
kw/h of electricity
without pollution and by means of solar energy, from a pool area of 7000m2,
was created by the shores of the Dead Sea, demonstrating the idea.
If a larger implementation of the process is developed in the
Dead Sea area, it should be able to supply the needs of electricity to the
Jordanian settlements as well as to the Israeli settlements around the Dead Sea.
This, however, requires a political agreement, vision and good will from the
leaders of the countries involved. Such a project can be combined with a far
greater project for the sake of nature and the people of this area, such as the
Mediterranean-Dead Sea Canal, or alternatively, the Red Sea-Dead-Sea Canal.
Calculations have shown that a solar pool the size of the Dead
Sea could supply more than the energy needs of Israel. The establishment of a
large-scale plant requires a considerable amount of water of fairly low salinity
for the purpose of creating layers of gradually increasing salt concentrations.
A canal, planned to link the Mediterranean and the Dead Seas, could supply
enough water to operate a solar pool large enough to produce a major part of
Israel’s electricity needs.
|The idea of a canal joining the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea
that would exploit the height difference between them to generate electricity
was put forward as early as the end of the last century. The idea was voiced
again several times over the years but rejected. After the energy crisis of 1973
and the increasing need to exploit alternative sources of energy, the economic
feasibility of this project grew, with ramifications extending far beyond the
mere production of electricity.
A decision to implement the project was taken already then, and
of the five alternatives examined it seemed that the route through Tel Katif,
Halutza to Massada was the best.
The system, a combination of a tunnel, canal and reservoirs, was
planned to start at the Mediterranean coast and end at the base of a cliff
facing the Dead Sea. An intake plant was to be built off the Mediterranean about
600 meters out to sea. Based on this plan, pumps would control the flow of 50
cubes of water a second through a seven-meter long pressure pipe to a height of
100 meters above sea level. From there the water would flow in an open canal 20
meters wide to a distance of 22 kilometers.
Next the water would enter a tunnel
five meters in diameter and 86 kilometers long and would flow east. South of
Massada, on the Judean Plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, two reservoirs would be
built, to serve the power station for use at peak consumption hours. The station
would be built into the cliff facing the Lissan peninsula, which meanwhile would
be connected to the shore. The water would fall from a height of about 400
meters through a pressure pipe and would turn the four turbines of the station,
which according to the plan would produce 450 megawatts of electricity. The
station was planned to operate at peak hours and would produce electricity
without pollution. The project would be worthwhile, even if the only benefit was
the generation of electricity. But there are also notable side benefits. What
For years the level of the Dead Sea has been gradually falling
both on account of the tremendous evaporation and on account of man’s
intervention. The use of the Jordan waters and its resources, both by Israel and
by Jordan’s diversion of the Yarmuk river, have affected the current state of
For many years, the water level has dropped by one meter every
year. The inflow of Mediterranean water would permit the controlled elevation of
the water to its original level and maintain it there. Because of the difference
in salinity, the Mediterranean water would make it possible to implement the
solar pool project, this time on a large scale.
The project would furthermore provide water to wash away the
salt that has crystallized in the ponds of the Dead Sea Works, to promote Marine
agriculture by creating ponds for fish, crabs and algae built next to the
power stations. It would supply cooling water for the power stations planned for
the interior of Israel, thus relieving the pressure on the Mediterranean coast
that could then be developed for summer resorts and tourism. The project would
create the effect of an oases for desert tourism and recreation.
From the economic and professional viewpoint the advantage of
the project lies in the fact that its sole raw material –water – is
available, and therefore there is no dependence on outside suppliers; it can be
stored and the price is fixed. The project envisages raising the level of the
Dead Sea, and this without flooding the Dead Sea Works or harming the Jordanian
potash plant during the replenishment phase, which would last five to twelve
years, and during the stabilizing phase lasting about 40 years. Together this is
half a century, the life span of the project.
for a Dead Sea canal is not without controversy. A re-assessment of the
project done during the early 90’s argued that the exploitation of the
potential height difference would be more valuable, from an economic point of
view, for desalinating water rather than generating electricity.
political circumstances have raised the idea of using an alternative plan to the
Mediterranean-Dead Sea canal. This plan suggests the
creation of a canal and a series of projects between the Red
Sea to the Dead
sea, thus helping also to incorporate political
advantages as well as economic ones, by creating mutual interests and
obligations for adjoining countries.
This Dead Sea - Red sea Canal project will be an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian joint venture.
During the first stage of this project a 180 km pipeline is planned to be built between the 2 seas. This pipeline will carry approximately 200 million cubic meters a year and will be used in part to fill up the shrinking Dead Sea and in part for desalination purposes. The World Bank agreed to finance a feasibility survey for the project, to be completed by 2011.
During its final stage the project should supply some 1.8 billion cubic meters, half of which will be desalinated and split between the partners. The other half will go to fill the dying Dead Sea.
No matter what decision is finally implemented, there is no doubt that any
project undertaken will require the cooperation of all parties. Regardless of
the approach, it is necessary to look at the area as a whole.
The uniqueness of the Dead Sea basin in terms of geology and
nature, together with its archeological and historical importance to mankind,
have stimulated the Friends of the Earth Middle East–EcoPeace (FoEME) to come
up with a stand regarding the Dead Sea basin. There is a need, they say, for a
holistic approach that supports an integrative concept for regional sustainable
development. Registering the Dead Sea basin as a Biosphere Reserve with UNESCO,
according to FoEME, will result in international recognition for the Dead Sea as
a site of global significance and as a site in need of protection.
Filling up the draining Dead Sea should be done, according to
the FoEME, by reviving the Jordan river, thus also regenerating the flora and
fauna that existed there. They call for balancing the need of man and nature.
Whether this becomes a reality depends on the leaders of the
countries involved. With the active political support of the international
community it could serve as an example for other nations, showing that
co-operation between countries for the future of next generations would make a
better planet to live in.
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