Red Dead Canal

In 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, the governments of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority advanced the idea of building a water conveyance linking the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.

[For publications relevant to this project, click here]

Water Canal between Basins of Dead Sea

The Red Dead Canal Mega Project:

The Red Dead Canal Mega project involved the proposed transfer of 2 billion cubic meters of water from Aqaba to the Dead Sea, with the construction of a desalination facility near the Dead Sea to produce about 800 million cubic meters (mcm) of potable water, mostly destined for domestic water needs in Amman, Jordan’s capital.

It was proposed to release over one billion cubic meters of brine into the Dead Sea, to not only stabilize the Dead Sea but to raise the sea level to earlier heights.

EcoPeace’s Role:

Concerned about the environmental and socio-economic repercussions of such a mega project, EcoPeace conducted an independent assessment[1], which helped us express our concerns in a constructive and informed manner vis-a-vis what became a major World Bank lead study on the mega Red Dead project.[2]

A critical role that EcoPeace played was to encourage the parties to undertake an Alternative Study[3] to the Red Dead that would look at other means of achieving project goals of water supply mostly to Amman and stabilizing the Dead Sea.

The Study of Alternatives to the mega Red Dead project highlighted to decision makers that there were alternatives indeed available with less environmental risk and at lower costs to the parties.

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[1] EcoPeace Middle East, An Analysis of the Latest Research Commissioned by EcoPeace / FoEME on the Red Sea to Dead Sea Conduit and its Relevance to the World Bank Led Study, May 2007

[2] COYNE-ET BELLIER in association with TRACTEBEL ENGINEERING and KEMA, RED SEA – DEAD SEA WATER CONVEYANCE STUDY PROGRAM FEASIBILITY STUDY Draft Final Feasibility Study Report Summary, July 2012

[3] Allan J., Malkawi A., Tsur Y., Red Sea–Dead Sea Water Conveyance Study Program Study of Alternatives, September 2012

Water Swap Agreement:

Based on the results of the Study of Alternatives, discussions over the project continued until December 2013, when a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a pilot “Red Sea Dead Sea Water Project” at times called “Phase I” or a “Water Swap Agreement” was signed in Washington by the three parties. This new project, very different from the mega project, envisions a water exchange between Jordan and Israel, whereby Jordan would desalinate 80 mcm near Aqaba and sell some 50 mcm annually of this desalinated water to Eilat and the south of Israel; and Israel in exchange would sell 50 mcm water annually from the Sea of Galilee to the North of Jordan, Irbid and Amman. As part of the MoU Israel agrees to sell 20-30 mcm of water unrelated to the Israel / Jordan swap to the Palestinians. EcoPeace has come out publically in full support of both the Israel Jordan water swap arrangement and the sale of additional water to Palestine.

The concern of EcoPeace only relates to the proposed transport of some 100 mcm of brine from the Aqaba desalination plant, to be built in Jordan and to be dumped into the Dead Sea via a pipeline. The tender, published in 2015, estimated a cost of $400 million for the pipeline alone. Twice in 2016, Israel and Jordan presented the project in front of potential donors gathered in an international conference in Aqaba and later at the Dead Sea.

EcoPeace remains concerned about the mixing of Red Sea brine with the unique mineral waters of the Dead Sea and the possible negative impact on the environment.[1] The World Bank study claims that the maximum amount of brine that the Dead Sea could receive without causing damage is 400 mcm and based on this initial assessment Jordan (and Israel) pledged not to exceed the amount of 300 mcm. Given the high uncertainty around the consequences, as was the case for the mega project, here too EcoPeace is calling for a study of alternatives to be commissioned on how best to dispose of the brine, so that decision makers and the public are better informed. There would appear to be three alternatives for brine disposal; transport the brine into evaporation ponds in the desert, near Aqaba, making sure that the selected area does not contaminate ground water; deep water injection back into the nearby Red Sea or that proposed by the governments, pumping the brine 200 km north into the Dead Sea. To date no alternative brine disposal study, environmental and socio-economic, has been carried out.

Under all circumstances, the Study of Alternatives as undertaken by the World Bank under the mega project, concludes that a combination of alternatives that involve the partial rehabilitation of the Jordan River flow into the Dead Sea and change in mineral industry practices are essential measures to be undertaken if we are to save the Dead Sea.

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[1] Gavrieli Itay, Lensky Nadav G., Dvorkin Yona, Lyakhovsky Vladimir, and Gertman Isac, A Multi-Component Chemistry-Based Model for the Dead Sea: Modifications to the 1D Princeton Oceanographic Model, Ministry of National Infrastructures Geological Survey of Israel, EcoPeace Middle East, USAID, Report GSI/24/2006