An aerial view of sinkholes created by the drying of the Dead Sea in 2011. (Menahem Kahana /Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The Dead Sea is slowly drying up, and its shrinking shores may be more dangerous than ever. According to environmentalists, the number of sinkholes on the banks of the sea is increasing quickly.

Ten years ago, 1,000 sinkholes could be seen up and down the coasts of the Dead Sea, prompting news articles to warn of a “looming environmental catastrophe.” Today, there are more than 3,000, according to ABC, and new sinkholes open every day.

“It’s nature’s revenge,” Gidon Bromberg of EcoPeace Middle East told ABC. “These sinkholes are a direct result of the inappropriate mismanagement of water resources in the region.”

Due to industry’s use of water and a yearly evaporation rate of up to five feet, the Dead Sea has shrunk by more than a third, unable to be replenished by the dried-up Jordan River.


(Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Although scientists are not able to determine where or when a sinkhole will open, they do know that, in the Dead Sea region, they are created when freshwater and subterranean salt layers interact beneath the surface. As the Dead Sea’s shores decline, larges pockets of salt are left behind that, once dissolved, create an empty cavity that causes the surface to collapse.

“They could develop overnight. Or over time,” Bromberg told ABC. “Making them unpredictable. And very dangerous.”


Sinkholes filled with water on the sea’s southern shores in 2010. (Ali Jarekji/Reuters)

Although there are no reports of deaths related to the sinkholes, the potential is there, as tens of thousands of people flock to the centuries-old tourist destination.

“Human intervention has just about killed the Dead Sea,” Alon Tal, professor in the Department of Desert Ecology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told Slate“It will take extraordinary human measures — careful, wise intervention and positive regional cooperation — to save it.”

To stop the sinkholes, Bromberg said the Dead Sea will need to be stabilized with freshwater. Water supplied by the Jordan River flows at about 5 percent of its historic volume. “If nothing is done,” Bromberg said, “it’s only a matter of time until someone dies.”