As a result of diversion of upstream waters and intensive mineral extraction along its shores, the level of the Dead Sea is dropping at a rate of almost one meter per year, causing the sea continuously to break its own record as the lowest place on earth. The loss of the sea and the accompanying ecological and cultural damage in the basin has traditionally been regarded as an unavoidable consequence of rational economic policy. This study investigates for the first time the non-market economic value of conservation of the Dead Sea basin using both contingent valuation (stated preference) and travel cost (revealed preference) studies. Study results indicate that all three local populations, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian, demonstrate a substantial willingness to pay to preserve the cultural and environmental heritage of the region. Such results strengthen the case for conservation of the region, which, heretofore, has relied strictly on ethical and ecological rationales.

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