Jordan and Israel signed an agreement on 26 February to go ahead with a World Bank-sponsored project to build a desalination plant in the Gulf of Aqaba and a pipeline linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea.

The plant will be built in the southern Jordanian port of Aqaba on the Red Sea and will desalinate water to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians.

The brine that is a by-product of the process will be sent north in a 180km pipeline to the Dead Sea.

The project will cost around $900m (£584.5m, €803m). It will take nearly three years to complete.

Jordanian officials said the two projects were crucial to providing a source of fresh water to the kingdom, which faces a severe water deficit, and to reviving the shrinking Dead Sea.

The desalination plant will produce at least 80 million m³ annually. Israel will buy at cost up to 40 million m³, the rest will go to Aqaba.

The idea of linking the two bodies of water has been around for more than a century. The Dead Sea has been found to be receding at a rate of more than one metre every year.

Israeli National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom said the project would bring water from the desalination plant for farmers in southern Israel and drinking water to the north.

The project began to move ahead two years ago after the World Bank determined it is possible to use the Red Sea to replenish the shrinking Dead Sea after years of studying whether such a connecting lifeline could work.