October 5, 2009

The Dead Sea is dying

If you need a first-hand example on how humans can affect their surrounding enviroment, check out the alarming case of Israel's Dead Sea. With more and more people taping into the sea's water sources, the shorelines and water aquifers are retreating at an alarming rate, creating dangerous conditions.

Up and down the Dead Sea, on the Jordanian and Israeli coasts, the shoreline is pockmarked by these sinkholes—testifying to an environmental catastrophe. The Dead Sea is shrinking, and as it recedes, the fresh water aquifers along the perimeter of the lake are receding along with it. As this fresh water diffuses into salt deposits beneath the surface of the shoreline, the water slowly dissolves the deposits until the earth above collapses without warning. More than 1,000 sinkholes have appeared in the past 15 years. In that time, sinkholes have swallowed a portion of road, date-palm fields and several buildings on the sea’s northwest coast. Environmental experts believe that hotels along the shore are also in danger. “The good news is that if you get swallowed by a sinkhole, they name it after you,” Bromberg deadpans.

...It needs an infusion of 160 billion gallons of water annually to maintain its current size; it gets barely 10 percent of that. Some 50 miles long in 1950, the sea is about 30 miles long today. Water levels are falling at an average rate of three feet per year. Pumping stations in Israel and in other countries are basically sucking the thing dry and while experts say the sea will recede until an equilibrium is found - I'm wondering if this is yet another example of how drinking water is becoming more and more sparse on Earth.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go water my lawn.

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