Friday, August 29

Refilling Dead Sea With Red Sea Could Make Gypsum

By introducing water of a different density and composition to the Dead Sea, engineers may drastically alter the very thing they are trying to save.

From Worldchanging we get news of an attempt to refill the shrinking Dead Sea by piping water in from the neighboring Red Sea.

The Dead Sea is unique. More salty than the oceans, it is now actually a lake, like none other in the world. But it has shrunk by a third in the last 30 years. Nearly 100% of the Jordan, virtually its only tributary, has been diverted for agriculture. Excessive mineral mining for potash and magnesium chloride is removing water at a rate of 150 million cubic meters per year. Now water levels are dropping a meter per year.

Dramatic engineering may be necessary in order to save it, and one proposed idea is to refill it with water from the neighboring Red Sea at a cost of $15 billion. Projects of this scale are not unprecedented, especially as water demand grows rapidly in many regions of the world. Egypt planned a similar water transfer project at a cost of $11 billion. Another example of this kind of desperate engineering is the $60 billion Chinese water transfer. Water transfers and withdrawals like this have increased at twice the rate of population growth, per the UN. The chief cause of the need for projects like this is the increase in desertification. Desertification has doubled worldwide within the last 30 years.

The possible untoward results of combining these seas include new algae growth that would also change the buoyancy of the water and alter its blue water to appear red. But the strangest comes from the mineral makeup of the two bodies of water.

Because the Dead Sea is rich in calcium and the Red Sea is rich in sulfate: if we mix them together we could create an ungodly new sea with a surface layer of gypsum.

Photo by Flikr user ccarlstead

For Matternetwork