Water input requirements of the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea

Shahrazad Abu Ghazleh, Jens Hartmann, Nils Jansen, Stephan Kempe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The deepest point on Earth, the Dead Sea level, has been dropping alarmingly since 1978 by 0.7 m/a on average due to the accelerating water consumption in the Jordan catchment and stood in 2008 at 420 m below sea level. In this study, a terrain model of the surface area and water volume of the Dead Sea was developed from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data using ArcGIS. The model shows that the lake shrinks on average by 4 km2/a in area and by 0.47 km3/a in volume, amounting to a cumulative loss of 14 km3 in the last 30 years. The receding level leaves almost annually erosional terraces, recorded here for the first time by Differential Global Positioning System field surveys. The terrace altitudes were correlated among the different profiles and dated to specific years of the lake level regression, illustrating the tight correlation between the morphology of the terrace sequence and the receding lake level. Our volume-level model described here and previous work on groundwater inflow suggest that the projected Dead Sea-Red Sea channel or the Mediterranean-Dead Sea channel must have a carrying capacity of >0.9 km3/a in order to slowly re-fill the lake to its former level and to create a sustainable system of electricity generation and freshwater production by desalinization. Moreover, such a channel will maintain tourism and potash industry on both sides of the Dead Sea and reduce the natural hazard caused by the recession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-643
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Dead Sea
  • Lacustrine terraces
  • Lake-level drop
  • SRTM-based model
  • Water volume and surface area loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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