Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
AMMAN — The Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project is feasible, according to a World Bank study, but it will have manageable social and environmental effects.
The World Bank has posted the draft executive summaries of the economic feasibility study, the environmental and social impact assessment and the study of alternatives on its website in Arabic, English and Hebrew.
The Red-Dead project is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.
Initial plans for the Red-Dead project, which includes Jordan, Palestine and Israel, propose pumping one billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea to stop its depletion.
Results of the studies, launched in 2008, indicated that six potential Red-Dead project configurations have been considered based on three alternative conveyance systems, including a tunnel alignment option, a tunnel/canal alignment option and a pipeline alignment option.
While the tunnel option has advantages of operational energy saving and low environmental impact, it has a number of “serious drawbacks”.
It lacks the flexibility to adapt to future changes, it is an extremely challenging piece of engineering and construction, situated in a tectonically disturbed region and it would be one of the longest tunnels on Earth among other negative factors.
Meanwhile, the tunnel/canal option “does not appear to offer many advantages over the gravity tunnel option”, according to the feasibility study, which indicated that because the option lacks the conceptual advantage of being driven by gravity, it will require substantial energy input and its vulnerability to both natural and malicious contamination along the open canal sections make it unviable.
The feasibility study indicated that “the pipeline option offers some advantages when compared to the alternatives and is the least capital cost solution. However, it has higher operating costs and a marginally higher total net present value than alternative configurations”.
“Based on a weighted multi-criteria assessment process, the pipeline conveyance combined with a high-level desalination plant is the recommended optimum solution.
“This configuration has the lowest total installed cost but the whole life cycle net present costs are some 3.5 per cent higher than those for the low-level gravity flow tunnel configuration,” the study recommended.
The estimated full capital cost of the recommended project configuration is $9.97 billion, excluding the potable water transmission system to Israel and Palestine, the study expected.
The economic feasibility study also indicated that the final report of the Red Sea Modelling Study suggests a “go” decision for a 2,000 million cubic metres per year extraction rate of Red Sea water, provided that the intake is at the proposed eastern site and at a 140 to 160-metre-depth.
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