Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority were set on Monday to ink an agreement to build a long-anticipated pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, part of an initiative that would produce millions of cubic meters of drinking water for the parched region and slake the critically dwindling Dead Sea.
Representatives of the three parties to the agreement – Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom, Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser, and Palestinian Authority Minister for Water Shaddad Attili – were scheduled to gather at the World Bank in Washington for an official signing ceremony.
“We’re talking about a historic process that realizes a dream of many years,” Shalom told Yedioth Ahronoth, which broke the story. “We have here strategic cooperation of national significance between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority.”
The Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, known informally as the Red-Dead project, is expected to cost $250-$400 million, to be raised from donor countries and philanthropic sources as well as a cash injection from the World Bank, the report said. Within a year, international tenders will be published for the construction of the pipeline in Jordanian territory along the Arava valley.
The surface of the Dead Sea lies some 427 meters (1,400 feet) below sea level, and water would naturally flow to it from the Red Sea. The project will be completed in four to five years, the report said.
According to the report, around 200 million cubic meters of sea water are to be pumped from the Red Sea, at the very southern tip of Israel, per year. A desalination plant in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, across the gulf from the Israeli resort town of Eilat, will produce drinking water. Israel is to receive around 30-50 million cubic meters, for the benefit of the port city of Eilat and communities in the the arid Arava region, while Jordan will use 30 million cubic meters for its own southern areas.
One hundred million cubic meters of the highly saline byproduct of the process will be piped north to the Dead Sea to replenish the lake, whose level has dipped precariously in recent decades. Environmentalists have warned that pumping the water into the Dead Sea will endanger the environment.
In addition, Israel will pump from the Sea of Galilee 50 million cubic meters of fresh water for Jordan’s northern regions and 30 million cubic meters for the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.
The idea of a conduit between the two bodies of water was first put forward by the British during the 19th century. In the 1990s, after Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement, the idea of laying a pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea began to gain momentum.