March 4, 2009

Human actions threaten Dead Sea levels

A German study suggests human water consumption is causing an alarming drop in Dead Sea water levels, with serious environmental consequences.

Shahrazad Abu Ghazleh and colleagues at the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, said the lower water levels in the Dead Sea -- the deepest point on Earth -- can impact the area's ability to generate electricity and produce fresh water by desalinization.

The researchers said normally the water levels of closed lakes such as the Dead Sea reflect climatic conditions such as precipitation and water evaporation. But they said the Dead Sea decrease in water level, volume and surface area is due to intensive human water consumption from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers for irrigation, as well as the use of Dead Sea water for the potash industry by both Israel and Jordan.

Abu Ghazleh and colleagues detail their research in the online issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften.