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Management scenarios for the Jordan River salinity crisis

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Recent geochemical and hydrological findings show that the water quality of the base flow of the Lower Jordan River, between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, is dependent upon the ratio between surface water flow and groundwater discharge. Using water quality data, mass-balance calculations, and actual flow-rate measurements, possible management scenarios for the Lower Jordan River and their potential affects on its salinity are investigated. The predicted scenarios reveal that implementation of some elements of the Israel–Jordan peace treaty will have negative effects on the Jordan River water salinity. It is predicted that removal of sewage effluents dumped into the river (∼13 MCM/a) will significantly reduce the river water’s flow and increase the relative proportion of the saline groundwater flux into the river. Under this scenario, the Cl content of the river at its southern point (Abdalla Bridge) will rise to almost 7000 mg/L during the summer. In contrast, removal of all the saline water (16.5 MCM/a) that is artificially discharged into the Lower Jordan River will significantly reduce its Cl concentration, to levels of 650–2600 and 3000–3500 mg/L in the northern and southern areas of the Lower Jordan River, respectively. However, because the removal of either the sewage effluents or the saline water will decrease the river’s discharge to a level that could potentially cause river desiccation during the summer months, other water sources must be allocated to preserve in-stream flow needs and hence the river’s ecosystem.
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Management scenarios for the Jordan River salinity crisis
Efrat Farber
a
, Avner Vengosh
a,*
, Ittai Gavrieli
b
, Amer Marie
c
,
Thomas D. Bullen
d
, Bernhard Mayer
e
, Ran Holtzman
f
, Michal Segal
f
,
Uri Shavit
f
a
Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Ben Gurion University, P.O. Box 653, Beer Sheva 84106, Israel
b
Geological Survey of Israel, 30 Malkei Israel St., Jerusalem 95501, Israel
c
Department of Applied Earth and Environmental Sciences, Al-Quds University, East Jerusalem, West Bank
d
Water Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, MS 420, 345 Middlefield Rd., Menlo Park, CA 04025, USA
e
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alta., Canada T2N 1N4
f
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel
Received 17 February 2005; accepted 28 July 2005
Editorial handling by R. Fuge
Abstract
Recent geochemical and hydrological findings show that the water quality of the base flow of the Lower Jordan River,
between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, is dependent upon the ratio between surface water flow and groundwater
discharge. Using water quality data, mass-balance calculations, and actual flow-rate measurements, possible management
scenarios for the Lower Jordan River and their potential affects on its salinity are investigated. The predicted scenarios
reveal that implementation of some elements of the Israel–Jordan peace treaty will have negative effects on the Jordan
River water salinity. It is predicted that removal of sewage effluents dumped into the river (13 MCM/a) will significantly
reduce the river waterÕs flow and increase the relative proportion of the saline groundwater flux into the river. Under this
scenario, the Cl content of the river at its southern point (Abdalla Bridge) will rise to almost 7000 mg/L during the sum-
mer. In contrast, removal of all the saline water (16.5 MCM/a) that is artificially discharged into the Lower Jordan River
will significantly reduce its Cl concentration, to levels of 650–2600 and 3000–3500 mg/L in the northern and southern areas
of the Lower Jordan River, respectively. However, because the removal of either the sewage effluents or the saline water
will decrease the riverÕs discharge to a level that could potentially cause river desiccation during the summer months, other
water sources must be allocated to preserve in-stream flow needs and hence the riverÕs ecosystem.
2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Management of cross-boundary rivers requires
full cooperation between the riparian states. In many
cases, the upstream country controls the riverÕs flow
rate (e.g., Euphrates, Nile, Colorado, Rio Grande,
Danube and Mekong) and thus many conflicts arise
due to uneven distribution or unilateral changes in
water utilization. In addition to water quantity dis-
tribution, water quality has become an important
factor determining the ability to utilize the river
0883-2927/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2005.07.007
*
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: avnerv@bgu.ac.il (A. Vengosh).
Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
www.elsevier.com/locate/apgeochem
Applied
Geochemistry
water. This is due to the fact that the quality of many
international rivers has deteriorated significantly
over the last decades (Shmueli, 1999).
The problems involved in applying international
treaties for international rivers include heterogene-
ities in drinking-water standards (e.g., the Danube
River; Linnerooth, 1990), water laws, and manage-
ment systems (e.g., the Rio Grande River; Sch-
mandt, 2002) among the riparian states. The joint
management of an international river requires a
comprehensive scientific understanding of the pro-
cesses that are controlling the degradation of the
riverÕs quality. In this paper, the Lower Jordan
River system is used to demonstrate that scientific
understanding of the hydrological system is the
key for sustainable joint management between the
riparian states.
The Lower Jordan River marks the international
border between Israel and the West Bank on the west
and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the east.
Decades of diversion of upstream good-quality
water and direct dumping of saline water and waste-
water have severely damaged the riverÕs ecological
system. The salinity of the Lower Jordan River has
risen significantly (up to 5400 mg Cl/L in summer
2001; Farber et al., 2004), endangering its capability
to supply water, even to saline-resistant crops such as
palms, which are one of the main agricultural prod-
ucts of the Jordan Valley. At the same time, the
Jordan River is an important component of the
Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan (Israel–
Jordan Peace Treaty, Annex II, 2004). The water is-
sue is an essential aspect of the treaty and received
the same level of attention as security and territorial
issues. Concerning the Jordan River, it was agreed
that (1) Jordan is entitled to an annual quantity
equivalent to that of Israel, provided, however, that
JordanÕs use will not harm the quantity or quality of
Israeli uses (Annex II, article 2); (2) Saline springs
currently diverted to the Jordan River are earmarked
for desalinization (Annex II, article 3); and (3) Israel
and Jordan will each prohibit the disposal of munici-
pal and industrial wastewater into the course of the
Yarmouk River or the Jordan River before they
are treated to standards allowing their unrestricted
agricultural use (Annex II, article 3).
Although the peace treaty was signed a decade
ago, none of the above items have been imple-
mented. However, future development in the region
will require dealing with these issues. The complexity
of the hydrological system and the severe degrada-
tion of the water quality make future management
schemes even more difficult to design. In this paper,
the authors use their understanding of the hydrolog-
ical and geochemical system of the Lower Jordan
River (Farber et al., 2004; Holtzman et al., 2005)
to show that implementation of the treaty is likely
to lead to further degradation in water quantity
and quality of the Lower Jordan River water. The
relationships between surface inflows and ground-
water discharge to the river are used in order to
quantify the salt budget and hence the salinity of
the Jordan River. Different management scenarios
that are related to the implementation of the peace
treaty are then simulated for prediction of the river
flow rate and salinity.
2. The hydrological system of the Lower Jordan River
The total length of the Jordan River, from its ori-
gins in the Hermon Mountains in the north to its
mouth at the Dead Sea, is approximately 250 km
(aerial distance), but its meandering course increases
its length to 330 km (Tahal, 2000). The River is
located in a semiarid area and can be divided into
two sections: the Upper Jordan River, from the
Hermon Mountains, to the Sea of Galilee (Lake
Tiberias), and the Lower Jordan River, from the
Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. The latter section
also marks most of the border between Israel, the
West Bank and Kingdom of Jordan (Fig. 1). While
the Upper Jordan River is a major source of high
quality drinking water, the water that discharged
from the Sea of Galilee into the Lower Jordan River
were historically more saline and therefore of lower
quality (Nissenbaum, 1969). The construction of
two dams at the outlet of the Sea of Galilee has
resulted in further deterioration of the water quality
and quantity in the Lower Jordan River. Currently,
there is no input of water from the Sea of Galilee to
the Lower Jordan River Water. Water quantity has
decreased from the historical volumetric discharge
estimated around 1300 MCM/a (Salameh and
Naser, 1999) to a recently measured and estimated
base flow of 30–200 MCM/a (Holtzman et al.,
2005 and Tahal, 2000, respectively) with rare high
discharge (600 m
3
/s) flood events. Holtzman
et al. (2005) measured the discharge under drought
conditions (i.e., only base flow) while Tahal (2000)
estimated the discharge including floods, which oc-
cur mostly during very rainy winters, when the dams
over the Sea of Galilee and/or on the Yarmouk
River are opened. The historical contributors in-
cluded outlet from the Sea of Galilee (540 MCM/a),
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2139
the Yarmouk River (480 MCM/a), local streams,
and floods (Hof, 1998). Following the construction
of water projects in Israel, Jordan and Syria, both
the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmouk River have
been dammed and no fresh surface water flows into
the Lower Jordan River except for negligible contri-
butions to the riverÕs base flow and the above
mentioned flood events. The base flow thus consists
primarily of sewage effluents and diverted saline
springs (see Section 4.1 for more details). Farber
et al. (2004) identified 3 sections along the Lower
Jordan River in terms of chemical composition
(Fig. 2): (1) a northern section (up to 22 km down-
stream from the Sea of Galilee) in which the initial
high Cl concentrations decrease and SO
4
concentra-
tions increase downstream; (2) a central section
(22–66 km) in which the variation in chemical
composition is less significant and mimics the up-
stream composition; and (3) a southern section
(66–100 km) in which the Cl and SO
4
concentra-
tions increase downstream (Fig. 2). In this paper,
the northern and the central sections will be com-
bined and will be referred to a new division
(Fig. 1): a northern segment (‘‘Segment One’’, up
to 66 km downstream from the Sea of Galilee) and
a southern segment (‘‘Segment Two’’; from 66 to
100 km downstream from the Sea of Galilee).
3. Methodology
As shown in Farber et al. (2004) and Holtzman
et al. (2005), the water balance of the Lower Jordan
River is controlled by groundwater flow along
different parts of the river. Hence, a mass balance
equation of the water in the river can be given as
Qfi ¼Qin þX
n
i¼1
Qsw
iþX
n
i¼1
Qgw
i;ð1Þ
Jordan
Israel
Palestinian
Authority
Lower Jordan River
Syria
Sea of
Galilee
Dead
Sea
Yarmouk
25 km
Upper
Jordan River
N
Jordan
Israel
Palestinian
Authority
Lower Jordan River
Syria
Dead
Yarmouk
25 km
Jordan River
N
Uga &
Melecha W. Shueib
Dead Sea
Aqraa
El Achmar W. Mallaha
Faraa /Tirza
Sea of
Galilee
W. Yavniel
W. Nimrod
W. Telbeh
W. Ziglab
Yarmuok
W. Harod
W. Tabor
W. Abu Ziad
Saline
carrier
Waste
Water
W. Arab
Abdaala Bridge
Adam Bridge
Zarzir
Neve Ur
Alumot Dam
0100
Distance from Alumot Dam (km)
Palestinian
Authority
Lower Jordan River
Dead
Yarmouk
Jordan River
N
Palestinian
Authority
Lower Jordan River
Yarmouk
Jordan River
N
Palestinian
Authority
Lower Jordan River
Yarmouk
Jordan River
NNN
Palestinian
Lower Jordan River
Jordan River
NNNNNN
Uga &
Melecha W. Shueib
Dead Sea
Aqraa
El Achmar W. Mallaha
Zarqa
W.
W. Nimrod
W.
W.
W.
10 20 60 70 80 90
SEGMENT
ONE
SEGMENT
TWO
Fig. 1. Schematic map of the Lower Jordan River.
2140 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
where Q
is the total water discharge (L/s) at the end
point of an investigated section, Q
in
is the water dis-
charge at the initial point of an investigated section,
Pn
i¼1Qsw
iis the total discharge of several (n) surface
water sources along the section, and Pn
i¼1Qgw
iis the
total discharge of several (n) groundwater sources
along the section. For the solute mass balance, the
conservation of mass of that solute is added
CfiQfi ¼Cin Qin þX
n
i¼1
Csw
iQsw
iþX
n
i¼1
Cgw
iQgw
i.ð2Þ
According to Eqs. (1) and (2), if one quantifies the
groundwater flows into the river, it is possible to cal-
culate the salinity of the river at any point along the
river, following:
Cfi ¼CinQin þPn
i¼1Csw
iQsw
iþPn
i¼1Cgw
iQgw
i
Qin þPn
i¼1Qsw
iþPn
i¼1Qgw
i
.ð3Þ
Farber et al. (2004) and Holtzman et al. (2005)
found that the contribution of the surface water
and its solutes to the river water is negligible. There-
fore, Eq. (3) can be reduced to the following form:
Cfi ¼CinQin þPn
i¼1Cgw
iQgw
i
Qin þPn
i¼1Qgw
i
.ð4Þ
If, however, the flow rates are unknown, it is still
possible to determine the relative mass contribution
of the groundwater sources into the river. In a sys-
tem where the groundwater contribution is homoge-
neous (i.e., a single groundwater source) the solute
mass balance will be
Cfi ¼Cgwfgw þCin ð1fgwÞð5Þ
and the relative contribution, f
gw
, is defined as
fgw ¼ðCfi CinÞ
ðCgw CinÞ.ð6Þ
In the two segments of the Jordan River the ground-
water flow and the salt mass-balance in the river
under the current hydrological conditions are quan-
tified. In the northern segment of the river the solute
mass balance is used to determine the relative
contribution of the groundwater salt flux (Eqs. (5)
and (6)). In the southern segment of the river actual
flow measurements and water quality in the river are
used to quantify the relationships between river
water and groundwater, and possible changes of
the river salinity upon changing the parameters of
river flow (Eqs. (4)).
1400
1600
1800
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
020406080100
Feb 2001
1400
1600
1800
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
020406080100
Mar 2000
1400
1600
1800
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
020406080100
Mar 2001
Cl (mg/L)
SO4(mg/L)
2000
2500
3000
3500
4000
4500
5000
5500
6000
500
1000
1500
2000
020406080100
Aug 2001
1400
1600
1800
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
0 20406080100
Aug 2000
1400
1600
1800
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
020406080100
Jun 2001
Cl (mg/L)
SO4(mg/L)
Distance from initial river (km)
Cl
SO4
Legend
Fig. 2. The variation of Cl and SO
4
contents (in mg/L) with aerial distance along the Lower Jordan River as recorded during separate
months. Note that the y-axis range was increased for the August 2001 results to include the high salinity peak.
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2141
4. Results and discussion
4.1. The northern segment of the Lower Jordan River
4.1.1. Current situation
The northern segment of the Lower Jordan River
extends from Alumot Dam to Adam Bridge (Seg-
ment One- the upper 66 km; Fig. 1). The down-
stream side of the Alumot dam is the headwaters
of the Lower Jordan River. The dam separates the
Sea of Galilee from the headwaters of the Lower
Jordan River (Fig. 3).
The base flow of the river begins at Alumot Dam
and is composed of two principle components
(Fig. 3): (1) saline springs that emerge along the wes-
tern shore of the Sea of Galilee and are diverted to
the Lower Jordan River via the so called ‘‘Saline
Water Carrier’’ (SWC). This carrier is an artificial
conduit, built to lower the natural salinity of the
Sea of Galilee by draining the waters of several
saline springs along the western shore of the Sea
of Galilee to Alumot Dam. The saline water in the
SWC is derived primarily from the Tabgha Springs
and Tiberias Hot Springs (THS). (2) Sewage efflu-
ents derived from the municipal sewage water of
Tiberias (drained directly into the SWC) and from
regional agricultural and municipal sewage that is
treated and drained through a separate pipeline
(‘‘Bitaniya’’ sewage; Fig. 3). The current average
discharge of this combined base-flow is approxi-
mately 30 MCM/a (Holtzman, 2003;Fig. 3). Mixing
between these two sources occurs at the initial point
of the Lower Jordan River, at downstream of Alu-
mot Dam.
The relative proportions of salt contents from the
respective sources contributing to the river water at
the beginning of the Lower Jordan River were deter-
mined using mixing Eqs. (5) and (6). Whereas the
annual discharge of the Tabgha Springs is larger
by an order of magnitude than that of THS (15
MCM/a versus 1.5 MCM/a), the salinity of THS
(Cl = 18 g/L) is much higher (Tabgha Springs,
Cl = 3 g/L). Consequently, the chemical composi-
tion of the mixed water in the SWC is mainly
controlled by the higher saline component of the
THS, although some contribution of Tabgha
Springs is also identified (Fig. 4(a)). Given that the
saline THS dominates the chemical composition of
the water at the initial point of the Lower Jordan
River, the salt contribution of the Tabgha Springs
cannot be evaluated by using the chemical varia-
tions, and thus is neglected in the following
calculations.
A salt mass-balance (Eq. (5)) between the Cl
contents in the sewage and the saline (THS) compo-
nents reveals that the saline water contribution to
the initial base flow of the Jordan River varies from
6% to 10% of the total salt budget (Table 1). Here,
the ‘‘f’’ value (Eq. (6)) refers to the relative salt
contribution of the saline component. The variations
of other dissolved constituents normalized to Cl
(Na/Cl, SO
4
/Cl, Ca/Mg, and Ca/SO
4
molar ratios;
Fig. 5) reflect similar mixing relationships between
the sewage and the saline components (i.e., about
10% of the salt budget of the initial river at Alumot
Dam is derived from the saline component).
The chemical composition of the initial base flow
of the Jordan River is changing along the first 22 km
downstream from Alumot Dam. Farber et al. (2004)
showed that the initial Ca–Cl composition (i.e., low
Na/Cl and SO
4
/Cl ratios) is gradually modified
towards a Mg–Cl water type (higher Na/Cl and
SO
4
/Cl ratios). Given the unique chemical and iso-
topic compositions that were monitored along the
Jordan River, Farber et al. (2004) suggested that
the explanation lay in groundwater discharges into
the river. Indeed, water with high Na/Cl and SO
4
/
Cl ratios was found in the saline Yarmouk River,
downstream from Adassiya Dam in Jordan and
was suggested to represent the composition of the
Tiberias
Hot Spring
1.5 MCM/y
Tabgha
15 MCM/y
Sea of Galilee
Saline Water Carrier
~20 MCM/y
Lower Jordan River
Bitaniya Sewage
~10 MCM/y
Alumot Dam
3.5 MCM/y
Deganiya Dam
Sewage
Fig. 3. Schematic map and annual discharge (MCM/a) of
Bitaniya sewage and the Saline Water Carrier (data information
from El-Ezra, Personel communication. Mekorot, Jordan Area,
Personal communication).
2142 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
discharging groundwater. Holtzman et al. (2005)
measured the flow rates in this river section and
showed a significant contribution of groundwater
flux to the Jordan River (i.e., a range of 20–80%
of the riverÕs measured discharge).
Following Eq. (5), the ‘‘f’’ value is defined as the
relative contribution of the Mg–Cl groundwater, C
in
as the SO
4
content in the initial base flow at Alumot
Dam, C
gw
as the SO
4
content in the saline Yarmouk
River (represents the Mg–Cl groundwater in the
area), and C
as the SO
4
content measured in differ-
ent sites along Segment One of the Lower Jordan
River. Table 2 presents the f(%) values of the
Mg–Cl groundwater and Fig. 6(a) illustrates the
variations of this value during two years of water
quality monitoring. The results show an increase
in the contribution of the Mg–Cl groundwater, par-
ticularly in the spring months (Fig. 6(a)). Since it is
assumed that the groundwater chemical composi-
tion is constant during the year, the variations in
the groundwater salt contribution indicate different
rates of groundwater discharge to the river.
The variations in groundwater discharge could be
the result of: (1) more irrigation of seasonal crops,
which enhances agricultural return flows; and (2)
more recharge in the winter months that resulted in
increasing groundwater discharge. Fig. 6(b) presents
the monthly flow volumes measured during 1990–
2000 in Naharaim Hydrometric station, adjacent to
the confluence of the Yarmouk and the Jordan Rivers
(data from Israeli Hydrological Service, 2002). The
increased flow rate during the winter months suggests
that the overall discharge of surface and groundwater
is seasonally controlled (i.e., option #2).
Given that the water quality in the northern
segment (Segment One) of the Jordan River is
controlled by 3 water components of (1) the saline
end-member; (2) the sewage end-member derived
from anthropogenic dumping into the river; and
(3) shallow groundwater with Mg–Cl composition,
in the following section the relative contributions
of these 3 end-members is quantified.
Fig. 7 plots the calculated compositions (SO
4
and
Cl) attained by mixing the 3 end-members and
presents the relative contribution (%) of the shallow
groundwater to the overall salt balance along Seg-
ment One. The 3 lines that connect the data points
of the end-membersÕ(forming a triangle) therefore
describe the theoretical lines of mixing between the
3 end-members. The data points representing the
initial river base flow (as sampled at Alumot
Dam) lie on the line between the saline and sewage
end-members. Downstream from Alumot Dam, the
river data points plot towards the shallow ground-
water end-member (‘‘Mg–Cl’’; Fig. 7). The data
show differences in the relative contribution of the
shallow groundwater; about 45% during September
1999 (Fig. 7(a)) and about 80% during December
2000 (Fig. 7(b)).
4.1.2. Future prediction and management
The current hydrological situation described
above (i.e., mixture of 3 water sources) is used for
predicting future scenarios. In the following discus-
sion, possible changes in the river salinity that may
be induced by changes in the relative contribution of
the different water sources of the Jordan River are
evaluated.
Na/Cl (M/M)
1/Cl (L/mg)
Sewage
Saline Water Carrier
Tabgha
Tiberias Hot Springs
a
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1.0
0 0.0005 0.0010 0.0015 0.0020 0.0025
0.01
0.02
0.03
0.04
0.05
0.06
0.07
0.08
0.09
0 0.0005 0.0010 0.0015 0.0020 0.0025
SO4/Cl (M/M)
1/Cl (L/mg)
Sewage
Saline Water Carrier
Tabgha
Tiberias Hot Springs
b
Fig. 4. Na/Cl (a) and SO
4
/Cl (b) versus 1/Cl (L/mg) of the saline
water springs (i.e., Tabgha and Tiberias Hot Springs) sewage
water (as sampled at Bitaniya) and the Saline Water Carrier
(SWC; as sampled below the Alumot Dam). Note that the salt
content of the SWC is controlled by the chemical composition of
the Tiberias Hot Springs and not the Tabgha Springs.
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2143
Several major management scenarios are consid-
ered (Table 3): (1) desalination of the SWC and re-
moval of all of the saline source from the SWC and
the Lower Jordan River; (2) eliminating sewage
dumping into the river; (3) differential removal of
one of the saline sources from the SWC (i.e., Tab-
gha Springs or THS); and (4) eliminating both saline
sources and sewage dumping into the river.
According to Holtzman et al. (2005), the ground-
water flux to the river varies from 20% to 80% of the
river flow rate. These values will be used as upper
and lower constraints for the groundwater influence
on river salinity.
Fig. 8(a) illustrates the mixing combination bet-
ween different end-members that include sewage,
Mg–Cl groundwater, and the two saline water
sources: Tabgha Springs (marked as ‘‘T’’) and
THS (data from Moise et al., 2000). Line A repre-
sents the mixing between sewage water and the
saline THS. Line B represents the mixing between
the sewage water and Tabgha Springs (T), line C
represents the mixing between THS and the Mg–
Cl groundwater as sampled at Yarmouk River,
and line D represents the mixing between Tabgha
Springs and the Mg–Cl groundwater.
Fig. 8(b) focuses on the gray zone in Fig. 8(a) and
demonstrates the changes in the river salinity due to
the following scenarios (arrows 2–6 in Fig. 8 and
Table 3):
All the saline water is removed such that the base
flow at Alumot Dam is composed only of sewage
effluents with low salinity. Although the down-
stream river salinity (arrow 2 in Fig. 8(b)) is
expected to increase given the input of the saline
groundwater, in this scenario the overall salinity
will be significantly lower than that of the current
situation.
All sewage effluent is removed such that the ini-
tial river base flow at Alumot Dam will be solely
composed of the saline sources. The downstream
river salinity will evolve along arrow 3 (Fig. 8(b)).
This is the only scenario in which the river salin-
ity becomes much higher than it is at present. If,
however, the sewage effluents are adequately
treated and returned to the river, no major
change in the river salinity will take place.
The THS is selectively removed. The overall
salinity of the base flow will be lower than today
but the downstream river salinity will evolve to
values similar to the current situation (arrow 4
in Fig. 8(b)).
The Tabgha Springs is selectively removed. The
volume of the base flow will significantly decrease
but its salinity and the salinity of the downstream
river (arrow 5 in Fig. 8(b)) will be only slightly
lower than the current situation.
The Tabgha Springs are desalinized at an effi-
ciency of 50%, and the reject brine (i.e., 50% of
the initial volume with twice the original salinity)
is diverted into the Lower Jordan River. The
salinities of the base flow and downstream river
are expected to be slightly higher than the current
situation (arrow 6 in Fig. 8(b)).
All the current inputs that make up the base flow
of the Jordan River (sewage effluents and saline
springs in SWC) are eliminated. The downstream
river salinity will therefore be controlled only by
Table 1
Calculation of the mixing proportions (f) between the saline component (as sampled at Tiberias Hot Springs) and sewage component
(average of samples from Bitaniya sewage) that composed the initial base flow of the Jordan River at Alumot Dam (in separate months)
Name Date Ca Mg Na Cl SO
4
Tiberias Hot Springs (THS) Moise et al. (2000) mg/L 3523 680 7042 18081 827
Bitaniya sewage Average mg/L 91 61 271 451 93
Alumot dam 01/02/01 mg/L 347 98 850 1860 150
THS f(%) 7 6 9 8 8
Bitaniya sewage f(%) 93 94 91 92 92
Alumot dam 01/03/01 mg/L 359 97 855 1970 150
THS f(%) 8 6 9 9 8
Bitaniya sewage f(%) 92 94 91 91 92
Alumot dam 01/04/01 mg/L 378 105 930 2070 160
THS f(%) 8 7 10 9 9
Bitaniya sewage f(%) 92 93 90 91 91
Alumot dam 01/06/01 mg/L 363 104 950 2040 158
THS f(%) 8 7 10 9 9
Bitaniya sewage f(%) 92 93 90 91 91
Calculations were made for different major elements.
2144 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
the groundwater discharge. The gradual dis-
charge of groundwater into the river will be most
pronounced under this scenario, as the flow rate
will increase down stream. The composition of
the river will not change along the river and will
be the Mg–Cl of the discharging groundwater. It
is expected that after 12 km, the salinity of the
river will be about 1150 mg Cl/L with a maxi-
mum flow rate of 24 MCM/a (assuming 80%
groundwater discharging).
Overall, it seems that removal of the saline water
is the preferred management scenario to have opti-
mal effects on the riverÕs ecology, whereas removal
of the sewage effluents will have detrimental effects
in term of the river salinity.
Saline water Fraction, f (%)
Initial
river
0.55
0.60
0.65
0.70
0.75
0.80
0.85
0.90
0.95
0 5000 10000 15000 20000
Initial
river
Saline
Sewage
0.01
0.02
0.03
0.04
0.05
0.06
0.07
0.08
0 10000
Na/Cl (M/M)
SO4/Cl (M/M)
020406080100 060
51510 51510 20 40
20000
Saline
10080
Sewage
5000 15000 20000
Sewage
Saline
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
Saline
Sewage
Ca/Mg (M/M)
Ca/SO4 (M/M)
020406080100 020406080100
Initial
river
Initial
river
105 15 5 1510
3.5 12
3.0
10
8
6
4
0.5 2
0 5000 10000 15000 20000 0 5000 1500010000
Chloride concentration (m
g
/L)
Fig. 5. Na/Cl, SO
4
/Cl, Ca/Mg and Ca/SO
4
ratios versus Cl concentration (mg/L) of the origin of the water river, as sampled from below
of Alumot Dam at different times. The measured data are compared to calculated mixing lines between sewage water (as sampled at
Bitaniya) and the saline water end member (as sampled at Tiberias Hot Springs). Note that the river composition at Alumot Dam is
determined by the mixing relationship between the sewage component (90%) and the saline component (10%).
Table 2
The contribution of Mg–chloride groundwater (as sampled at the
Yarmouk River) to the river flow along the northern section
Date Sampling location Distance from
Alumot (km)
Yarmouk
fraction (%)
01/09/99 Sheich Hussein Bridge 22.7 48
01/03/00 Hamadiya South 20.1 87
01/05/00 Neve Ur South 12.7 58
01/08/00 Neve Ur North 11.6 44
01/12/00 Hamadiya South 20.1 82
01/02/01 Hamadiya South 20.1 85
01/03/01 Hamadiya North 18.6 51
01/04/01 Hamadiya North 18.6 50
01/06/01 Hamadiya South 20.1 30
01/08/01 ShifÕa Station 27.7 9
The calculated results shown here (and in Fig. 6(a)) were obtained
using Cl concentration.
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2145
4.2. The southern segment of the Lower Jordan River
4.2.1. Current situation
The southern segment (Segment Two; 66–100 km
from Alumot Dam; Fig. 1) of the Lower Jordan
River is characterized by a downstream increase in
salinity (Fig. 2). Historical data (Bentor, 1961; Neev
and Emery, 1967) indicate that the Cl concentration
of the most southern point of the Lower Jordan
River at Abdalla Bridge was 400 mg/L in 1925
and 1947. The present river Cl concentration is in
the range of 1500–2500 mg/L during most of the
year, but can reach up to 5400 mg/L at its most
southern point during the summer months (Farber
et al., 2004).
Until the 1950s, the estimated Jordan River dis-
charge to the Dead Sea was approximately 1300
MCM/a (Klein, 1995, 1998; Hof, 1998). The current
discharge is only 30–200 MCM/a (Holtzman et al.,
2005; Tahal, 2000). The significantly reduced flow
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Sep-99
Nov-99
Jan-00
Mar-00
May-00
Jul-00
Sep-00
Jan-01
Mar-01
May-01
Jul-01
Date
Mg-chloride GW Fraction, f (%)
Nov-00
1
10
100
1000
Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar A
p
rMa
y
June Jul
y
Au
g
Se
p
t
Monthly Volume (MCM)
1990/91
1991/92
1992/93
1993/94
1994/95
1995/96
1996/97
1997/98
1998/99
1999/00
Average
a
b
Fig. 6. (a) Mg–Cl groundwater (GW; as sampled at Yarmouk River) contribution to the Lower Jordan RiverÕs chemical composition
along the northern section of the river, and (b) monthly flow volumes at the Naharaim hydrometric station (in the Yarmouk River), from
1990–2000 (Israeli Hydrological Service, 2002). Note the correspondence between the increases in the discharge of surface and
groundwater during the fall and winter months, marked as arrows.
2146 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
of the Lower Jordan River has resulted in lowering
the Dead Sea water level by over 20 m in the last 50a
(Gavrieli and Oren, 2004; Hassan and Klein, 2002).
To predict the water quality of the southern part
of the Lower Jordan River under different water-
management scenarios, the current hydrological
situation must first be determined. Farber et al.
(2004) investigated the chemical and isotopic com-
positions of river water in the southern section of
the Lower Jordan River and the associated inflows
and groundwater. The geochemical data indicated
that the riverÕs quality is largely controlled by
non-point discharge of saline groundwater sources.
It was demonstrated that the groundwater itself is
a mixture of two end-members: (1) SO
4
-rich saline
groundwater; and (2) Ca–Cl Rift Valley brines.
The SO
4
-rich groundwater is characterized by high
Na/Cl (0.81–1.0), SO
4
/Cl (0.25–0.50), and low Br/
Cl (1–4 ·10
3
) molar ratios. In contrast, the brines
have low Na/Cl (0.55–0.69), SO
4
/Cl (0.02–0.04),
and high Br/Cl (5–9 ·10
3
) ratios. Farber et al.
(2004) recognized seasonal variations in the inten-
sity and locations of salinization of the Jordan River
water. These variations are related to the differential
contribution of the two end-member groundwater
sources. It was shown that the SO
4
-rich ground-
water contribution predominates during the spring
months in a particular river section A (70–80 km
from the riverÕs origin at Alumot Dam; Fig. 9),
while the Ca–Cl brine source affects section B
(>75 km; Fig. 9) mostly during the summer months.
Farber et al. (2004) estimated Cl concentrations of
9000 mg/L for the SO
4
-rich groundwater that dis-
charge to the river in section A and 18,700 mg/L for
the brines that discharge to the river in section B.
The distinction of these two sections allows
quantification of the groundwater discharge by
assuming that: (1) groundwater contribution has a
distinct discharge Q
gw
and concentration C
gw
in
the two sections; (2) no sinks or additional sources
exist in the two sections.
The chemical variations of the river are used to
define the two sections during the spring (June)
and summer (August) months. Section A and B
are affected by the SO
4
-rich groundwater and
brines, respectively. In the spring (June) section A
lies between Zarzir site (59.7 km downstream from
Alumot Dam; Fig. 9) and the Baptism site
(95.6 km; 35.9 km long section), and section B lies
between the Baptism site and Abdalla Bridge
(100 km; 4.4 km long section). In the summer (Au-
gust), section A lies between the Zarzir and Gilgal
sites (76.6 km; 16.9 km long section) and section B
between Gilgal and Abdalla Bridge (23.4 km long
section).
Following Eqs. (1) and (2) solute mass balances
were conducted for the specific sections. For section
A the solute mass-balance during the spring (June
2001) is
CbpQbp ¼Czr Qzr þQgw
1Cgw
1;ð7Þ
0
200
400
600
800
1000
0 5000 10000 15000 20000
Mg-chloride
THS
Sewage
20%
40%
60%
80%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
Saline water
Fraction, f (%)
Mg-chloride Fraction, f (%)
Sep 1999
Initial river
River flow
direction
SO4(mg/L)
Cl (mg/L)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
0 5000 10000 15000 20000
Mg-chloride
THS
Sewage
Saline water
Fraction, f (%)
Mg-chloride Fraction, f (%)
Dec 2000
20%
40%
60%
80%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
Initial river
River flow
direction
SO4(mg/L)
Cl (m
g
/L)
a
b
Fig. 7. Sulfate and Cl concentrations of river samples and an
interpretation of the mixing processes occurring among the 3 end
members (i.e., saline spring – as sampled at the Tiberias Hot
Springs (THS), sewage – an average of Bitaniya water samples,
Mg–chloride groundwater – as sampled at the Yarmouk River,
and river water from the initial 20 km as sampled during
September 1999 (a) and December 2000 (b)). Note that as the
downstream distance from the lower riverÕs origin increases, the
river concentrations move towards the data point representing
the shallow groundwater end member (‘‘Mg–chloride’’). The
groundwater contribution to the water flow of the river varies in
time (i.e., in December 2000 the groundwater discharge constituted
80% of the river flow while in September 1999 it was only 45%).
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2147
where C
bp
and C
zr
are Cl concentrations at the riv-
erÕs initial-point and end-point of section A (i.e.,
Baptism sites and Zarzir; 2720 and 1460 mg/L,
respectively). Cgw
1is the we conducted-rich ground-
water in section A (8863 mg/L; Farber et al., 2004),
Q
zr
is the actual river-discharge measurement car-
ried out in June 2001 (1200 L/s; Holtzman, 2003),
and Qgw
1is the we conducted-rich groundwater
discharge in section A. Using this data, the total
discharge of river flow at the end-point of section
A was calculated (i.e.,Q
bp
at Baptism Site). This
discharge is equal to the total discharges
Qbp ¼Qzr þQgw
1.ð8Þ
For section B the solute mass balance during the
spring (June 2001) is
CabQab ¼Cbp Qbp þQgw
2Cgw
2;ð9Þ
where C
bp
and C
ab
are the Cl concentrations at the
riverÕs initial-point and end-point of section B (i.e.,
at Baptism Site and Abdalla Bridge, 2720 and
3440 mg/L, respectively). Cgw
2is the brine component
in section B (18,790 mg/L; Farber et al., 2004), Q
bp
is
the value that was calculated previously, Qgw
2is the
Table 3
Combinations of Lower Jordan River water quality (Cl concentration in meq/L and mg/L) and quantity (river discharge in MCM/a) at its
origin and 17 km downstream under different management scenarios and with different groundwater (GW) contributions (i.e., 20%, 50%
and 80%)
Cl concentration
(meq/L)
Cl concentration
(mg/L)
Discharge
(MCM/year)
Arrow No. in Fig. 8(b)
Tabgha 85 3000 15
Tiberias Hot Springs (THS) 508 18,000 1.5
Total sewage (MNM + Bitaniya) 13 450 13.5
Total Initial River 73 Up to 2600 30
Tabgha desalinization 170 6027 1.5
Groundwater inflow (20%) 32 1150 6
Groundwater inflow (50%) 32 1150 15
Groundwater inflow (80%) 32 1150 24
Initial River
Present 73 Up to 2600 30 1
Removal of all saline water 13 450 13.5 2
Removal of Tabgha 62 2205 15 5
Tabgha desalinization 72 2552 16.5 6
Removal of THS 51 1792 28.5 4
Removal of sewage 123 4364 16.5 3
After 17 km (contribution of 20% GW)
Present 67 2360 36 1
Removal of all saline water 19 665 19.5 2
Removal of Tabgha 54 1904 21 5
Tabgha desalinization 61 2178 22.5 6
Removal of THS 47 1680 34.5 4
Removal of sewage 99 3507 22.5 3
After 17 km (contribution of 50% GW)
Present 60 2118 45 1
Removal of all saline water 23 818 28.5 2
Removal of Tabgha 47 1678 30 5
Tabgha desalinization 53 1885 31.5 6
Removal of THS 44 1571 43.5 4
Removal of sewage 80 2833 31.5 3
After 17 km (contribution of 80% GW)
Present 55 1957 54 1
Removal of all saline water 25 898 37.5 2
Removal of Tabgha 44 1556 39 5
Tabgha desalinization 49 1721 40.5 6
Removal of THS 42 1499 52.5 4
Removal of sewage 69 2459 40.5 3
The right column correlates to the arrows in Fig. 8(b).
2148 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
Ca–Cl groundwater discharge in section B. Using
this data, the total discharge of river flow at the
end-point of section B was calculated (i.e., Q
ab
at
Abdalla Bridge). This discharge is equal to the total
discharges
Qab ¼Qbp þQgw
2.ð10Þ
In the same way the groundwater discharge for sec-
tions A and B during the summer was calculated
(August 2001), as section A spans from Zarzir to
Gilgal and section B from Gilgal to Abdalla Bridge.
For these calculations, the actual river-discharge
measurements carried out in August 2001 were used
(300 L/s; Holtzman, 2003) and the Cl concentra-
tions measured in the river during that period.
The results indicate that groundwater discharge
rates in June 2001 were 246 and 68 L/s for sections
A and B, respectively. In August 2001 the discharge
rates were 39 and 73 L/s for section A and B, respec-
tively. The data indicate that the groundwater flux
(i.e., the discharge divided by the length of every
section) is not constant around the year and the
total flux in June was higher.
Following Eq. (4), the Cl concentration in Abda-
lla Bridge (i.e., the end-point of the river) can be
calculated as follows:
Cab ¼CzrQzr þCgw
1Qgw
1þCgw
2Qgw
2
Qzr þQgw
1þQgw
2
;ð11Þ
where the indexes 1 and 2 refer to groundwater of
sections A and B, respectively. Thus, the salinity
in Abdalla Bridge is directly dependent on the rela-
tionships between the river flow, (Q
zr
), the ground-
water flow in the two sections ðQgw
1and Qgw
2Þ, and
their salinities. Based on Eq. (11) it is possible to
evaluate how the salinity in Abdalla Bridge would
change under different management scenarios.
4.2.2. Future prediction and management
The different management scenarios considered
for Segment One of the Lower Jordan River (from
Alumot Dam to Adam Bridge) are also applied to
Segment Two. The final point of Segment One
(66 km downstream from Alumot Dam) is used as
a starting point for Segment Two. The Cl concentra-
tion, C
ab
, at Abdalla Bridge was calculated for two
September 1999
0
200
400
600
800
1000
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000
T
Line A
Line C
Line D
Line B
1
6
5
4
2
3
Mg-chloride
Sewage
50% contribution
of Mg-chloride
Groundwater to the
initial river base flow
Line C
Cl (mg/L)
Mg-chloride
Sewage
T
5000
Line D
Line A
LineB
15000 20000
10000
a
b
1000
THS
800
Cl (m
g
/L)
SO4(mg/L)
600
400
200
0
0
Fig. 8. (a) Mixing processes between different end members that include sewage, Mg–chloride groundwater, and two saline water sources
assuming selective removal of one of them. ‘‘T’’ represents the composition of Tabgha Springs. ‘‘THS’’ represents the composition of
Tiberias Hot Springs. Line A represents the mixing between sewage water and Tiberias Hot Springs (THS). Line B represents the mixing
between sewage water and Tabgha Springs (T). Line C represents the mixing between THS and the Mg–chloride groundwater as sampled
at Yarmouk River. Line D represents the mixing between Tabgha Springs and the Mg–Cl groundwater. Figure (b) focuses on the gray
zone in figure (a); arrows 1–6 represent the variation trends in the riverÕs chemical compositions currently (1) and as a result of the
implementation of different scenarios: removal of all the saline water (2); removal of sewage (3); removal of THS (4); removal of Tabgha
(5), and Tabgha desalinization (6). Note that the slope of dashed line is derived from the Holtzman et al. (2005) estimate.
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2149
different conditions: ‘‘August condition’’ and ‘‘June
condition’’. The previously calculated groundwater
discharges are used (i.e., 246 L/s in section A and
68 L/s in section B for ‘‘June condition’’; 39 L/s in
section A and 73 L/s in section B for ‘‘August con-
dition’’). The groundwater Cl concentrations for the
SO
4
-rich groundwater and for the Ca–Cl groundwa-
ter were 8863 and 18,790 mg/L, respectively (Farber
et al., 2004). C
zr
for the starting-point of Segment
Two is the same as the Cl concentration of the
end-point of Segment One, and varies according to
the different management scenarios outlined in the
previous section.
Table 4 summarizes the effects of the different
scenarios on the salinity and the river discharge at
Abdalla Bridge. The results of all but one (removal
of THS) of the management scenarios indicate a sig-
nificant reduction in the discharge flow of the river
relative to the present situation (Table 3). Thus,
the current ratio between the surface water and
groundwater discharge is expected to decrease and
the saline groundwater contribution will increase.
Consequently, the salinity differences between the
upstream river (before groundwater discharge) and
downstream river will also increase and the effect
of the saline groundwater discharge will be more
significant leading to a further salinization of the
downstream part of the Lower Jordan River.
The current flow of the Jordan River to the Dead
Sea is approximately 30–200 MCM/a (Holtzman
et al., 2005; Tahal, 2000). According to Table 3, most
of the future management scenarios will cause a
reduction of 14–16 MCM/a. Thus, it is predicted
that implementation of these management scenarios
will cause a further decrease of the river flow to the
Dead Sea.
Table 4 summarizes the Cl concentrations of the
river under different management scenarios, based
on the discharge values measured in June and Au-
gust 2001. During these two months, the Cl concen-
tration at Abdalla Bridge was 3440 and 5370 mg/L,
respectively. According to the ‘‘June calculations’’,
removal of all of the saline water from the Lower
Jordan River would reduce the Cl concentration
Fig. 9. Detailed map of the southern part of the Lower Jordan River, including river segments for June and August 2001.
2150 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
Table 4
Combinations of Lower Jordan River water quality (Cl concentration in mg/L) and quantity (river discharge in L/s) under different management scenarios and groundwater (GW)
contributions
June-2001 Q
i
(L/s)
C
i
(mg/L)
Q
1
(L/s)
C
1
(mg/L)
Q
2
(L/s)
C
2
(mg/L)
Q
3
(L/s)
C
3
(mg/L)
August-2001 Q
i
(L/s)
C
i
(mg/L)
Q
1
(L/s)
C
1
(mg/L)
Q
2
(L/s)
C
2
(mg/L)
Q
3
(L/s)
C
3
(mg/L)
1200 1461 246 8863 68 18,790 1514 3439 300 1659 39 8863 73 18,790 412 5371
After 17 km (contribution of 20% GW)
Removal of all
saline water
1080 674 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 2999 Removal of all saline
water
270 674 39 8863 73 18,790 382 4966
Removal of Tabgha 1080 1914 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3961 Removal of Tabgha 270 1914 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5844
Tabgha
desalinization
1080 2163 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 4153 Tabgha
desalinization
270 2163 39 8863 73 18,790 382 6019
Removal of
Tiberias Hot
Springs (THS)
1200 1666 246 8863 68 18,790 1514 3602 Removal of Tiberias
Hot Springs (THS)
300 1666 39 8863 73 18,790 412 5376
Removal of sewage 1080 3510 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 5197 Removal of sewage 270 3510 39 8863 73 18,790 382 6972
After 17 km (contribution of 50% GW)
Removal of all
saline water
1080 815 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3109 Removal of all saline
water
270 815 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5066
Removal of Tabgha 1080 1666 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3769 Removal of Tabgha 270 1666 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5668
Tabgha
desalinization
1080 1879 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3933 Tabgha
desalinization
270 1879 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5818
Removal of THS 1200 1560 246 8863 68 18,790 1514 3518 Removal of THS 300 1560 39 8863 73 18,790 412 5299
Removal of sewage 1080 2836 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 4675 Removal of sewage 270 2836 39 8863 73 18,790 382 6496
After 17 km (contribution of 80% GW)
Removal of all
saline water
1080 886 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3164 Removal of all saline
water
270 886 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5116
Removal of Tabgha 1080 1560 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3686 Removal of Tabgha 270 1560 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5593
Tabgha
desalinization
1080 1737 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 3823 Tabgha
desalinization
270 1737 39 8863 73 18,790 382 5718
Removal of THS 1200 1489 246 8863 68 18,790 1514 3461 Removal of THS 300 1489 39 8863 73 18,790 412 5247
Removal of sewage 1080 2446 246 8863 68 18,790 1394 4373 Removal of sewage 270 2446 39 8863 73 18,790 382 6220
Calculated values are based on June and August 2001 discharge measurements, and the different scenarios refer to the present situation and removal one of the riverÕs initial end-
member sources. Q
i
is the river discharge at the initial sample site (Zarzir Station), C
i
the river Cl concentration at the initial sample site (Zarzir Station), Q
1
the GW discharge at
segment 1, C
1
the GW Cl concentration at segment 1, Q
2
the GW discharge at segment 2, C
2
the GW Cl concentration at segment 2, Q
3
the river discharge at the final sample site
(Abdalla Bridge), and C
3
the river Cl concentration at the final sample site (Abdalla Bridge).
E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153 2151
to 3000 mg/L, whereas removal of the sewage from
the lower riverÕs origin would increase the Cl
concentration to 5000 mg/L at Abdalla Bridge.
According to the ‘‘August calculations’’, removal
of all the saline water from the lower riverÕs origin
would reduce the Cl concentration to 5200 mg/L
and removal of the sewage from the lower riverÕs
origin would increase the Cl concentration to
7000 mg/L at Abdalla Bridge. Therefore, the
ability to utilize the river water in the future depends
on the riverÕs management at the initial point of the
Lower Jordan River at Alumot Dam. Removal of
the upstream saline water would have the most ben-
eficial effect on the riverÕs ecological system, whereas
removal of the sewage water would have detrimen-
tal effects in term of the river salinity.
5. Conclusions
This paper aims to predict the future salinity
variations of the Lower Jordan River under several
different management scenarios that are included in
the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. The pre-
dictions are based on the authorsÕunderstanding of
the relationships between shallow groundwater and
surface water flow in the Jordan River. For the
calculations of the future scenarios, differential
removal of the water sources (sewage and saline
waters) that composed the initial flow of the Jordan
River have been considered. Removal of sewage
effluents and saline water are the principal elements
that are mentioned in the peace treaty between
Israel and Jordan concerning future joint manage-
ment activities.
While the data on actual discharge flow in the
Jordan River is limited (Holtzman et al., 2005),
recently published geochemical data (Farber et al.,
2004) were used to quantify the relationships
between groundwater flux and river flow.
The salinity of the initial river (at Alumot Dam) is
currently up to 2600 mg Cl/L, and depends primarily
on the relationships between natural saline water
and sewage effluents that are dumped into the river.
The calculations show that removal of the sewage
effluents from the Lower Jordan River will increase
its salinity (to 4400 mg Cl/L), whereas removal of
the saline component will reduce it (to 450 mg
Cl/L) at Alumot Dam. Current shallow groundwa-
ter discharge to the northern section (Segment
One) of the Lower Jordan River buffers river quality
and reduces river salinity. The river salinity decrea-
ses downstream from 2360 to 2000 mg Cl/L (with
20–80% groundwater contribution, respectively)
about 20 km downstream of Alumot Dam. Removal
of the sewage component will cause a downstream
increase in river salinity (to 3500 mg Cl/L),
whereas removal of the saline component will cause
a downstream reduction in salinity (to 665 mg Cl/
L). Our predictions indicate that the northern part
(Segment One) of the Lower Jordan River could
turn into a low-saline river if the current saline
component is removed. In this case, the river will
be suitable for almost all types of agricultural appli-
cations (but will have limited water for this purpose
due to decrease in the river flux). In contrast, the
salinity of the Lower Jordan River could increase
upon removal of the sewage effluents and thus its
suitability for different agricultural crops would be
further limited.
The different management scenarios that are
applied to the northern area of the Lower Jordan
River are also valid to the southern part (‘‘Segment
Two’’; 66–100 km downstream from Alumot Dam).
For this part of the river, we based our estimation
on two discharge measurements that were carried
out in June and August 2001 at Zarzir Station
(66 km downstream from Alumot Dam; Holtzman
et al., 2005) and solute mass balance assuming that
groundwater discharge is the major source of salini-
zation of the river in this section (Farber et al.,
2004). The current salinity of the most southern point
of the Lower Jordan River at Abdalla Bridge is 3440
and 5370 mg Cl/L (June and August 2001, respec-
tively). The calculations indicate that removal of the
saline component at the initial point of the river in
Alumot Dam would cause only a small change in
the downstream riverÕs salinity (decrease from 3440
to 3000 mg Cl/L in June and 5370 to 5000 mg Cl/L
in August), given the large contribution of the saline
groundwater. However, selective removal of the sew-
age component would cause a significant increase in
the downstream riverÕs salinity. Under this scenario,
the river salinity at Abdalla Bridge would increase
to 5200 mg Cl/L (in June), 7000 mg Cl/L (in August).
Overall, the predictions indicate that the future
of the Lower Jordan River depends directly on the
different management activities suggested by the
peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Two oppo-
site trends are shown upon elimination of the saline
water or sewage effluents from the river. The contin-
uation and possible increase in sewage drainage into
the river, combined with elimination of saline water
discharge into the river, will significantly reduce
river water salinity and will increase its suitability
2152 E. Farber et al. / Applied Geochemistry 20 (2005) 2138–2153
for different agricultural uses. In contrast, selective
removal of the sewage component will reduce the
surface flow, increase the contribution of the saline
groundwater in the southern part of the river, and
consequently, will increase the riverÕs salinity. It is
concluded that the sewage inflow into the Jordan
River is a vital component in maintaining and even
reducing the riverÕs salinity. Nonetheless, discharge
of sewage effluents might contribute organic
contaminants. The authors, therefore, recommend
im-proving the treatment of sewage effluents being
discharged into the river in order to improve other
elements of river quality.
Acknowledgments
This study was supported by the US Agency for
International Development; Bureau for Global Pro-
grams, Field Support and Research; Center for Eco-
nomic Growth and Agriculture Development, The
Middle East Regional Cooperation program
(MERC project M20-068). We thank ECO Jordan
and the Nature Protection Authority in Israel for
their field assistance and contribution.
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