Remotely sensed estimation of water discharge into the rapidly dwindling Dead Sea

D. Vachtman, J. B. Laronne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Dead Sea is shrinking as its water level drops at the alarming rate of about 1 m year-1. The Dead Sea is important to the economies of Israel and Jordan due to the extracted minerals (primarily potassium, also magnesium and bromide). It is also central to regional tourism. It is the lowest place on Earth and its endorheic, saline basin attracts international research in various disciplines. Additional to the Lower Jordan River, the discharge of which has been decreased to a small fraction of its original value, fresh to brackish springs are the main source of water to the rapidly dwindling Dead Sea. Although the existence of these springs has been known for decades, until recently estimates of spring water discharge into the Dead Sea were scarce. In this study, we developed a methodology of water discharge estimation for channels incising into a lacustrine bed using remotely sensed data and a single hydraulic geometry variable, water-surface width. Based on calibration of over 400 in situ measurements and simultaneous hydrometric data from aerial images, width-discharge rating curves were established, tested, and found suitable (r2 = 0.92, p = 0.001) for the estimation of water discharge, with ±5% uncertainty. Furthermore, we used these relationships to estimate retrospectively the temporal changes in water discharge of seven main channels traceable in historical aerial images. The reconstructed trend reveals a major (63%) reduction in average freshwater inflow between 1990 and 2006. Our results maximize the use of water-surface width information from aerial imagery, and suggest applicability to areas experiencing rapid exposure of sea/lake bed and consequent access difficulties in in situ discharge monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1593-1605
Number of pages13
JournalHydrological Sciences Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • hydrometry
  • remote sensing
  • river discharge
  • sea level drop

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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