Jordan, Palestinians, Israel launch Dead Sea refill study

Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel agreed December 10 to proceed with a feasibility study of a US$2 billion to US$4 billion project to refill the Dead Sea with water from the Red Sea. Officials say the project could include a hydropower project.

The tripartite meeting, attended by World Bank officials, agreed to solicit tenders soon for the World Bank-sponsored feasibility study of the project to reverse a 25-meter decline in the level of the Dead Sea in the past century. (HNN 10/2/06) It was estimated the study could begin in first quarter 2007.

Officials said Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority were committed to the 180-kilometer “Two Seas Canal” plan despite stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

�This project will help ease the shortage of water for all of us,� Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer told reporters. �A peace agreement is a piece of paper that can be cemented only though economic projects.�

The Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth’s surface, has been shrinking because of increased use of water upstream from the Jordan River, the Dead Sea’s main source. France, the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan have signaled their willingness to contribute to the cost of the two-year study.

Any link between the seas might include a hydroelectric plant to capitalize on the drop of about 450 meters from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It was estimated a hydro plant could have capacity of 550 MW.

The study also would examine environmental effects. The Dead Sea is too salty for all but a few salt-loving micro-organisms. It is unclear whether the sea would be affected by less salty Red Sea water.

Kardan subsidiary Tahal Group of Israel has studied a plan for 108 kilometers of canals, tunnels, and pressure pipeline to carry seawater from the Mediterranean Sea to recharge the Dead Sea. That US$1.1 billion plan would include an 800-MW pumped-storage project.

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