Why Doesn’t The Dead Sea Fill Up?

Apparently, the Dead Sea has no outlet. It’s the end point of the River Jordan, the source of which is in the Golan Heights on the border between Israel and Syria.

The river runs from the Golan, through the sea of Galilee (which is a lake, and is known as the Kineret in Hebrew), and onwards south to the Dead Sea.

So why doesn’t the Dead Sea fill up?

Perhaps its rate of evaporation is greater than the rate at which water flows in? After all, it is very saline, so there must be considerable evaporation. Still, with water flowing in all the time, it surprises me.

16 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t The Dead Sea Fill Up?

  1. I imagine there must also be a high rate of infiltration due to sandy soil and porous bedrock. I have a friend who lives in Jordan and visits the Dead Sea regularly. I’ll ask her if she knows next time I chat with her.

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      1. I asked my friend. According to her it’s just the very high rate of evaporation. Also, not as much water is flowing into it anymore, as Israel pumps large amounts of water from the Jordan for agricultural use. And due to the constant evaporation the salinity is constantly increasing.

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  2. To my best knowledge, it loses water continually and one day it will dry out totally. If I remember correctly, it has something to do with the salt content of the surrounding soil (it sucks up the water because its salt concentration is higher than that of the water, so that’s the way the water goes from the “pool”), but I’m in no way an expert in geology and my memory may cheat me ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, I hope there is a way to stop this process and save the Dead Sea.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. That makes sense – osmosis trying to bring the system into equilibrium. I wonder whether the salt content of the rock is because of the Dead Sea is so far below ground level. At some point in the past this part of the Great Rift Valley would have been under water, and perhaps the salts that were solution are like the sediment at the bottom of a kettle – naturally finding the lowest point?

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      1. I’m not sure it’s osmosis (for osmosis you usually need some semi-permeable membrane) but I’m no expert in physics as well. It’s surely some kind of diffusion. Or the not salt part of the soil acts as a membran? I really don’t know. Would be interesting to find out though ๐Ÿ™‚

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        1. Oh yes ‘semi-permeable membrane’ – that brings back memories.

          Yes, there must be something controlling the rate at which the process happens, otherwise it would probably all happen in one mighty gulp.

          It reminds me of a programme I saw on TV – David Attenborough talking about the Mediterranean when it was a lake. Then the barrier with the Atlantic broke and the seas flowed together. But even now the salinity has not equalled out – and there are some fish that can only live in the Mediterranean and not the Atlantic because of the differences in salinity, and vice versa.

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    1. David Bradley on Twitter tweeted a link to an article from EchoPeace:

      The Dead Sea is drying up at an alarming rate. Far and away the biggest cause of the rapid disappearance of the Dead Sea is the lack of water coming into it from its traditional sources: the Jordan River and various side wadis (tributaries). Construction of dams, storage reservoirs, and pipelines has greatly reduced water inflows to the Dead Sea. While much of this water is being used by the Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians for basic domestic consumption, most goes towards highly subsidized and inefficient agriculture.

      I don’t know where the ‘inefficient’ agriculture comes in – I might investigate more.

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      1. That’s terrible — if it were to vanish. Yes, the inefficient agriculture’ sounds fuzzy. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Someone must be upset about this, don’t you think?!

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  3. I remember watching the Attenborough series on National Geographic Channel as a child, I loved it! I don’t really recall anything sciency of it anymore though ๐Ÿ™‚ I should reread his book.

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