Bodies of water mentioned in the Bible, including the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the River Jordan, where Jesus Christ was baptized, are shrinking fast in a looming “disaster,” experts say.
Sky News reported that the Dead Sea in particular is seeing its water levels decline faster than ever before, losing as much as five feet each year. Scientists are fearing that it may only be reduced to a “tiny pool” by the middle of the century.
"Its a lesson to everyone: don't mess with nature because nature will always win and we will always lose," said Ofir Katz, an ecologist at the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center.
"If we keep taking fresh water from nature, from the Sea of Galilee, or from the Euphrates for example, or the Nile, we will eventually ruin the local environment.
"We need to take care of nature or else we all sink with it."
The River Jordan, once strong, has now been reduced to a trickle, scientists added in a warning of an "environmental disaster in slow motion."
The shrinkage has been blamed in part on the expanding population in the region and the need for water, as well as on factories mining minerals by evaporating the water.
Environmentalist Gidon Bromberg from Eco Peace said that the "demise of the Dead Sea is a reflection of the unsustainability of our water resources region-wide."
Bromberg called for joint work on desalination plants to counter the problem.
"Manufacture more water in the Mediterranean, produce renewable energy in the desert areas and create healthy interdependencies amongst us Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians first. Or we're going to see potentially more conflict rising out of these increasingly scarce water resources," he said.
The Dead Sea and the areas around it have been the site of some of the most important finds in Biblical archaeology, such as the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
The fragments, which contain manuscripts of some of the earliest Biblical writings, are believed to have been hidden in 11 or potentially 12 caves somewhere in 68 BCE in order to protect them from Roman soldiers.
They were found in a series of discoveries between 1947 and 1956, with close to 900 fragments written on animal skin and papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and subjected to analysis by researchers for decades.
In November, scientists suggested that a "superheated blast from the skies" destroyed cities near the Dead Sea 3,700 years ago, alluding to the destruction of Sodom, as described in the Bible.
Archaeologist Phillip Silvia of Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said at the time that unearthed minerals were found to have instantly crystallized at high temperatures at what used to be cities and farming settlements north of the Dead Sea.
Researchers said that something resembling a meteor destroyed communities in a 15-mile-wide circular plain, with the people of the region not returning for 600 to 700 years following the cataclysmic event.