Is the Dead Sea really dead?

The Dead Sea is the lowest terrestrial geographical feature on Earth. The high percentage of salt in the Sea makes it the most buoyant  water feature on Earth.  The large amount of white froth on the sea shore depicted in this photograph shows the high concentration of salt in the Dead Sea.  Some estimate salt concentrations as high as 30%.

Dead Sea beach with accumulated sea salt along the edges between the Sea and the beaches.
Dead Sea beach with accumulated sea salt froth along the shoreline.

But why is the Dead Sea dying?  The answer begins millions of year ago when shifting tectonic plates separated the continents.  The Dead Sea has been 1,300 feet below sea level for millions of years.  Until 1950, the process of the annual buildup of salinity has been offset by the infusion of fresh water from underground springs and aquifers.

Since 1950, real estate development, along with rising populations and demands for fresh water, have caused land surrounding the Dead Sea to become pock-marked with sinkholes swallowing buildings at an unpredictable rate.  The Dead Sea itself has shrunk by a much as  thirty miles measured along a north-south line.

Although one might think the answers ought to be easy given the oil-rich countries surrounding the Sea, the recent toppling of monarchies and dictatorships surrounding the Sea only make the possibility of a joint resolution among “countries”  never really “nations” in the sense of United States, Britain, and France, even more difficult.  Tribal wars among Muslims with different interpretations of Islamic traditions only recently have further reduced the chances for conciliation. The life or death of the “Dead Sea” hangs in the balance. The outcome is anyone’s guess.

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