Is the Dead Sea really dead?

Threats to the Dead Sea

Salt crystals on the banks of the Dead Sea show evidence of the receding water level.
Salt crystals on the banks of the Dead Sea show evidence of the receding water level.
Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Unfortunately for the Dead Sea and those who cherish its historic and cultural significance, the body of water may be on track to disappear by the year 2050 [source: BBC News]. The organization Friends of the Earth (Middle East) attributes the ever-decreasing levels of water in the Dead Sea to the simple fact that less water is being brought in via the Jordan River and other tributaries. This is due to human intervention in the form of pipelines, dams and storage reservoirs diverting the water to other areas. Friends of the Earth claims that these practices have already wreaked havoc on the Dead Sea, causing its surface area to decrease by one-third [source: Friends of the Earth (Middle East)].

The group also asserts that the water level isn't all that stands to be affected. The area surrounding the Dead Sea is home to a diverse ecosystem of plants, birds and other wildlife, all of which depend on the body of water for survival[source: BBC News]. Of course, proponents for the diversion of Dead Sea water point to the ongoing drought in the area, claiming water should be put to domestic, agricultural and other uses [source: BBC News]. One potential solution to this problem is the construction of a canal that would channel water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The project is known as the Two Seas Canal, and would be 112 miles (180 km) long. Opponents of the canal claim that it would damage the integrity of the seawater in the Dead Sea, forever changing its mineral makeup [source: National Geographic News]. Detractors also worry that freshwater aquifers in the area could be compromised by the Dead Sea's water in the event of an earthquake.

Activists are also working to limit development in the area surrounding the Dead Sea. The area is controlled by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian governments, all of which Friends of the Earth claims are advocating development that could threaten the environmental and cultural integrity of the area. Plans would include the construction of more hotels and other industrial complexes [source: Friends of the Earth (Middle East)]. Friends of the Earth says that a more coordinated effort between the governments could protect the environmental integrity of the area.

Despite these ongoing threats to the Dead Sea, this extraordinary body of water is capable of many rejuvenating powers. Next, we'll go into detail about the various therapeutic capabilities of the Dead Sea.