U.S. Water News Online
AMMAN, Jordan -- Despite regional tension, Jordan is
seeking to revive cooperation with Israel on a project to boost the
receding water level of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth,
officials and an Israeli diplomat said.
The surface level of the saltiest water in the world has been
receding over 3 feet every year for at least the past 20 years, said
Zafer Alem, secretary-general of the Jordan Valley Authority. If it
continues, he said, the Dead Sea and its ecosystem will be gone in 50
``The Dead Sea is a unique heritage not only to the countries that
border it but to the whole world, and it's the world's responsibility
to take decisive action immediately to save us from looming
catastrophe,'' Alem said.
Jordan wants to resurrect a joint project with Israel to boost the
water level in the Dead Sea, which lies on their borders and is also
shared by Palestinians. Many projects with Israel have slowed or
stalled because of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
So far, Jordan has initiated informal contacts with Israel, mostly
through intermediaries such as the World Bank and the United States
Agency for International Development -- a U.S. government body,
Jordanian government officials said.
Israeli Embassy spokesman Amir Weissbrod confirmed contacts began
a few months ago and said he expected both neighbors to continue
cooperating on the Dead Sea.
A project to replenish the ailing basin with waters from the Red
Sea has been considered since Jordan signed a peace treaty with
Israel in 1994. But it hasn't been implemented, partly because of a
lack of financing.
The plan envisions building a canal along the Jordanian-Israeli
border, stretching from the Red Sea and cutting through southern
desert terrain to the Dead Sea, said Jordanian water expert Elias
The $2 billion project would exploit the 1,320-feet altitude
difference between the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea to desalinate
sea water for parched Jordan, Salameh added, citing a 1997 World Bank
He said plans to supply the Dead Sea with more water date back to
the late 1960s, when diversion of the Yarmouk River by Syria and
Israel added to a supply problem already aggravated by evaporation.
At the time, Israel suggested drawing water from the Mediterranean
But following the peace treaty, Jordan began mulling the idea of
the Red-Dead Canal -- to which Israel had agreed, partly to help its
Arab neighbor, which suffers from severe water shortages.
Negotiations that followed have focused on technical matters.
While Israel has favored a pipeline, saying it was more cost
effective -- projected to cut the cost by half, Jordan has said a
canal would boost both countries shore areas, according to Salameh,
who has published several books on the Dead Sea.
He said a compromise is still within reach and envisions a canal
at the start of the water tract on the Red Sea, then a pipeline in
``The shoreline has, in some areas, receded for over a mile in the
last 20 years and if we don't move fast, there will be no Dead Sea,''
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