The Southern Jordan River and the Dead Sea

The Southern Jordan River and the Dead Sea / by Yair Sharet

One of our most important goals with Sirin Riders is to show our clients as much as possible an authentic Israel. Along with Israel’s unique beauty and interesting history and archeology, there are several daunting ecological problems. This article will discuss two related problems: the southern Jordan River and the Dead Sea.

The sources of the Jordan River are found on Mt. Hermon in the Upper Galilee and in southern Lebanon. In fact, most of the water comes from the rain that falls in the Northeast of Israel and is collected in the northern part of the Jordan River and in the Sea of Galilee.

Until 1960, water from the rainy season flowed from the Sea of Galilee southward in the Jordan River, reaching after 150km (93miles) the Dead Sea.

In the 60’s and 70’s, two large water plants were built in the area. In Israel, the Central Aqueduct pumps water from the Sea of Galilee and deliver it to the Negev Desert in the south of Israel. In Jordan, the East Ro’ar Main Canal (renamed the King Abdullah Canal), pumps water from the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers to irrigate most of the farm lands in the Kingdom. These water plants are responsible for irrigating most of the agriculture in both Israel and Jordan.

Under the peace agreements between Jordan and Israel which were signed in 1994, Israel agreed to pump another 50 million cubic meters of water from the Sea of Galilee to Jordan.

Unfortunately, with all of these developments, the Dead Sea and the Southern part of the Jordan River have had to pay a heavy price.

For the past thirty years, the flow of water from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea has almost stopped. As a result, the Dead Sea is drying up at a rate of one meter (three feet) a year.

The Jordan River flows for just another 4km (2.5mi) from the Sea of Galilee and then stops. On our trips, we bathe a couple of hundred meters before the river’s end.

Drinking water from the Jordan River during Tour Israel.

Solving this problem is incredibly complex because there is a real dilemma between the needs of agriculture and safeguarding natural treasures.

In order to save the Jordan River, there is a huge national project being conducted in Israel. A sewage treatment plant is being built which will clean most northern Israel’s wastewater, making it suitable for irrigation and bathing.

The water from the treatment plant will flow into the Jordan River at the point where the river presently ends. The river will them flow for an additional 40km (25mi), reaching the Beit Shean Valley.


Water flood at Judea Desert

In addition, with the scheduled completion of a desalination plant in two years’ time, Israel will have enough fresh water to allow more water to flow southward from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea.

Here in Israel, we pray for rainy winters, especially rain in the south that causes the flash floods which quickly raise the water level in the Dead Sea.


Mud party at the Dead Sea at the end of Tour Israel

In the meantime, we will continue to ride along the Jordan River and to swim in the Dead Sea and hope that they will survive into the future.


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