Concluding Comments

The average supplies of natural water available on a sustainable fashion in the water basin feeding the Dead Sea (comprising Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority) will soon drop below 100 m3/year per person – the quantity deemed necessary for basic human consumption. Upstream diversions have deprived the Dead Sea of more than 90 % of its historical inflow, leading to progressive decline of its water level, which currently exceeds one metre per year on average. Stabilising the Dead Sea at its current level requires increasing the inflow by 700 to 800 × 106 m3/year, while restoring historical levels requires above 1,100 × 106 m3/year. We addressed four alternatives to stabilise or restore the Dead Sea: a large-scale Red Sea–Dead Sea Project, examined by Coyne et Bellier's (2014) feasibility study; two Mediterranean Sea–Dead Sea Projects (examined in the study of alternatives to the Red Sea–Dead Sea project); and an alternative based on recycled water and a mini Red Sea–Dead Sea Project (also examined in the abovementioned study of alternatives). We evaluate the costs associated with each alternative and offered a mechanism to pay for their implementation, based on a surcharge levied on all upstream diversions (including water consumed by the potash industries).

The Southern Mediterranean Project was found to be the most economical, in that it is a profitable project (the hydroelectricity profits more than compensate for the infrastructure and operating costs), thus requires no surcharge on upstream diversions. The full-scale Red Sea–Dead Sea Project was found to be the most expensive one, and financing it would require a surcharge of about USD 0.1/m3 on all upstream diversions (including the water consumption by the potash industries). Both projects are capable of restoring the Dead Sea level to its historical state. However, they should be implemented gradually, and discharge flows above 400 × 106 m3/year are currently considered risky in terms of possible damages due to stratification, gypsum crystallisation or algae blooms (TAHAL and GSI 2011).

The Northern Mediterranean Project involves desalination at the coastline, conveyance to Naharayim–Bakura, while exploiting the elevation difference to generate hydroelectricity and letting the water flow to the Dead Sea along the lower Jordan River route. The profit from the pumped energy plant covers the conveyance cost from Atlit to Naharayim–Bakura. A by-product of this alternative is a partial restoration of the lower Jordan River, and the ensuing benefit is sufficient to cover all or most of the desalination cost. The costs of the stabilisation of the Dead Sea level are therefore negligible. However, desalinating 700–800 × 106 m3/year (the minimal flow needed to stabilise the Dead Sea at its current level) along the northern Mediterranean coast may not be feasible, implying that this alternative should be combined with other alternatives.

The fourth alternative considered was built on the evolution of the following three ongoing processes: population growth, increased supply of potable water by desalination and reuse of domestic water after appropriate treatment. Over time (3–4 decades), these processes will give rise to a regional supply of recycled water above 2,000 × 106 m3/year, which will be available for reuse in irrigation and environmental restoration. We predict that 300–400 × 106 m3/year of the recycled water could be allocated for the purpose of partially restoring the lower Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Estimates of the benefit associated with the partial restoration of the lower Jordan River suggest that the associated benefit is sufficient to cover the costs of the recycled water (conveyance cost plus compensation to irrigators). The residual costs of the recycled water to the Dead Sea reclamation are therefore negligible. Stabilising the Dead Sea, however, requires additional flow of 300 × 106 m3/year to 400 × 106 m3/year. This additional flow can come from a mini Red Sea–Dead Sea Project that will desalinate 300 × 106 m3/ year at Aqaba (100 × 106 m3/year) and near the Dead Sea (200 × 106 m3/year), while conveying and discharging the brine (367 × 106 m3/year) into the Dead Sea (the purpose of the desalination is to alleviate Jordan's severe water shortage problem). Since the cost of the mini Red Sea–Dead Sea Project is about a third of its large (full)-scale counterpart, the surcharge on all diversions (which remain unchanged) needed to finance this project will be USD 0.03/m3 – about a third of the surcharge of the large-scale project.

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