Dead Sea hurtling towards death at record rate
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The Dead Sea is shrinking at a record rate, prompting calls for Israel and Jordan to stop fertilizer makers from siphoning water whose restorative powers have attracted visitors since ancient times.
The Hydrological Service of Israel said that the salty inland lake bordering the nations dropped a record 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) over the last 12 months because of industry use and evaporation.
According to the Independent, that's the steepest Dead Sea decline since data-keeping started in the 1950s.
Half the drop was caused by Israel Chemicals Ltd. and Jordan's Arab Potash Co., Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of the Friends of Earth Middle East, said.
"This is unacceptable and speaks to the urgency of the need to force industry to change their extraction process," Bromberg said.
According to the report, the makers of potash, a raw material for fertilizer, are competing for water with a centuries-old tourism industry on the Dead Sea, Israel's most crowded leisure destination last year with 857,000 visitors.
Dead Sea Works, owned by Israel Chemicals, denied any increased pumping, saying it has used 150 million to 170 million cubic meters a year from the sea for two decades.
"The main reason for the declining sea level is the increased usage of the water that used to flow to the Dead Sea in the past, especially from the Jordan River, by all countries in the region," the company said in an emailed statement.
According to the report, about one-third of the Dead Sea's surface area has disappeared and sinkholes are increasingly common as the waters shrink amid drought, agricultural diversion, largely from the Jordan River, and pumping to extract minerals for fertilizers.
Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli policymakers, under the auspices of the World Bank, have been examining various plans to halt the Dead Sea''s decline, it added.