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Saving the Holy Jordan River

Updated on November 4, 2014

Over the past 8,000 years, the Jordan River in the Middle East has support mankind's earilest civilizations and during that time remained blue in color. The river is immortalized in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was where Jesus was baptized, four companions of the Prophet Mohammed were buried, and where Moses stood before the Promised Land.

Today, the river still is used to baptize some 500,000 people but not at the site where Jesus was, but 200 km up river due to man's pollution. This pollution has made the flow drop 90% and now is a mere trickle in places. It is filthy and a health hazard due to raw sewage and extensive fertilizers being dumped into it. All of it ends in the Dead Sea, fast becoming true to its name. It is 427 meters below sea level and each year it drops another meter. Part of the blame lies with Jordan and Israel because each country since the 1960's has been diverting the water via water canals to population centers, such as Tel Aviv. Water is also diverted to farms in the Negev Desert. The farms extensive use of fertilizer has created a dangerous health hazard. Still, the Jordan Valley is home to 300 species of birds and millions of them visit the area each year as they migrate.

From the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea is some 200 km, but the water flow is greatly reduced in a 25 km section from the Sea of Galilee. This section provides much of the water to Israel and Jordan. To increase the water flow, Israel is considering of using desalinated water from one of its four plants that produce 25% of the nation's water. It began doing this in 2013 and returned 10 million cubic meters back into the Jordan River. But, to save the river, the amount of water needing to be returned is at least 400 million cubic meters! There is a cost to all this, as water costs Israelis about 60 cents per cubic meter. Producing 400 million cubic meters for the river would cost us about $240 million per year. So, the future in saving this holy river is still questionable, for now, it will remain a shadow of its former self and then there is the other issue called pollution and Middle East politics and war.

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