The Expected Impact of the Peace Conduit Project (The Red Sea – Dead Sea Pipeline) on the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea of Israel, Jordan and Syria is a severely disturbed ecosystem, greatly damaged by anthropogenic intervention in its water balance. During the 20 th century, the Dead Sea level dropped by more than 25 meters, and presently (2003) it is at about 416 meters below mean sea level. This negative water balance is mainly due to the diversion of water from the catchment area of the lake by Israel, Jordan and Syria. During the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development Israel and Jordan jointly announced their interest in saving the Dead Sea by constructing the Peace Conduit that will pipe water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The inflow of seawater (or reject brine after desalinization) into the Dead Sea will have a major impact on its limnology, geochemistry and biology. During the filling stage, relatively diluted surface water will form and the rate of evaporation will therefore increase. Dilution of the surface water will most likely result in microbial blooming whose duration is not known, while the lower water layer is likely to develop reducing conditions, including bacterial sulfate reduction and presence of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Mixing between the calcium-rich Dead Sea brine and the sulfate-rich seawater will result in gypsum precipitation (CaSO4·2H2O). Once the target level is reached, inflow will be outbalanced by evaporation and salinity of the surface water will increase due to accumulation of sea water-salts. The water column will remix when the density of the surface water will equal that of the lower water column. In spite of its large volume and high salinity relative to that of the inflowing water, over the long run the composition of this unique lake will change. Before a decision is made on the planning and construction of the Conduit, it is essential that the long term evolution and characteristics of the renewed Dead Sea be known and anticipated changes examined. Once decided upon, the planning and construction of the Conduit should be conducted so as to minimize possible negative impacts of seawater introduction on the Dead Sea. This can only be achieved through a thorough understanding of the expected changes in the limnological physical/chemical characteristics of the Dead Sea and its unique brine.