The Dead Sea, photographed from the space shuttle Endeavour last month.(NASA via Getty Images)

Officials at Israel’s Ministry of Tourism are wasting no time now that the Dead Sea has been chosen as a finalist in an online contest to name seven new wonders of the natural world, to be announced in 2011. “We are very happy,” said Gura Berger, the ministry’s coordinator of efforts on behalf of the Dead Sea. “But there are still two years ahead of us and we need to encourage one billion people around the world to vote for us.” That seems doable. According to the Jerusalem Post, the contest asks for “sites of extraordinary beauty and ecological significance, which have not been created or significantly altered by humans.” That last bit is what might prove challenging for Dead Sea champions; the body of water is losing more than three feet of depth a year—not because of nature but because of human diversion of Jordan River waters, which feed the Sea, for irrigation purposes in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories, and by the extraction of minerals by companies, like Ahava, along its shores.

Berger concedes the Dead Sea is in peril, but thinks winning the contest would ultimately be a boon for tourism. Though right now replenishment, not people, is what would constitute the best kind of life support.

Dead Sea on Seven Wonders Shortlist [JPost]
Is the Dead Sea Dying? [Science Daily]