The country’s water basins have crept up to promising levels in the course of the rainy winter season, with Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) now lacking less than 2 meters of water to reach full capacity.

By Tuesday morning, the Kinneret reached 210.765 meters below sea level, just 1.965 meters from the “upper red line,” or full capacity, data from the Water Authority’s Hydrological Services showed.

This represented a rise of 1.5 centimeters from the previous morning’s readings and an additional 2 centimeters from the day before, when the lake lacked 2 meters exactly following a stormy Saturday night.

During the nearly week-long storm that pounded Israel earlier this month, the Kinneret rose 73 centimeters, an increase that was unparalleled for this period of time going back two decades.

All in all this January, the basin has risen 1.1 meters, and during the entire winter season thus far – 1.65 meters, Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. It is likely that the Kinneret level will peak this season at about half a meter below the upper red line, Schor said.

“That’s not only because of the rain,” he said. “That’s because the change in policy of the Water Authority. We are pumping from Kinneret less than half of the average pump that we had previously done. The policy is to try to revive the natural sources of water.”

The Water Authority has been able to reduce the amount of water being pumped out of the Kinneret by the National Water Carrier due to the significantly increased amounts of desalinated and treated wastewater being employed in the country.

Prof. Eran Feitelson, of the geography department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, likewise stressed that the increased desalination has allowed the Water Authority to keep much more freshwater in the Kinneret basin. Going forward, it is crucial to continue to conserve water to recharge the aquifers, and to expand the capacity of existing desalination facilities, Feitelson said.

Calling the forecasts for another session of heavy rain “just wonderful,” Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) Gidon Bromberg said that he hoped for snow as well in this week’s storm.

“With more snow it means we will have water for weeks as that snow melts,” he said.

With the welcome rising levels of Kinneret basin, the country could benefit from releasing some of that added freshwater to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River, once the river’s sewage is cleaned, Bromberg said, citing a new FOEME road map prepared in conjunction with Dutch consultancy firm DHV.

“With the dramatic reduction in pumping from the Sea of Galilee, not only in this great year of rain, but even in average years of rain, the Sea of Galilee is likely to be a very healthy lake with high potential for overflow to supply to the Lower Jordan River,” Bromberg said.

The FOEME road map calls for managing flow to the Lower Jordan River in a consistent matter, with the water supply eventually reaching the Dead Sea, he explained.

“I think it’s time for the public to understand that the water economy is capable of releasing water on a monthly basis, to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan and benefit from a whole lot of tourism gains,” Bromberg said.

While Israel should be returning 210 million cubic meters per year from the Kinneret to the Jordan River, the government has only pledged to release 30 million cubic meters annually – and this only after the sewage is removed, he added.

As far as resuming flow to the Jordan River goes, however, Feitelson said that the rising quantities in the Kinneret are still insufficient to serve this purpose. “The whole point of the Kinneret rising was not to have water flowing out,” he added.

Rehabilitating the Jordan River needs to occur through means other than freshwater, as the country’s aquifers in total still lack more than 1 billion cubic meters of natural water, Schor explained.

“We can’t afford to waste it,” he said. “But we are giving much more freshwater altogether to nature and to agriculture, and by recovering the natural sources you automatically recover all the flow of the springs and the rivers.”

While Bromberg agreed that if such a Kinneret rise only occurs once in a decade then it would be insignificant, sustainable management of water resources can allow for the release of water down the Jordan.

No matter what is done with the Kinneret water, however, all of the experts agreed that people cannot be complacent about water conservation simply because of this good winter.

“We’ve made that mistake already in the past. It doesn’t mean we should do it again,” Feitelson said. “It doesn’t mean we can splurge.”

Stressing that the country still needs a few more rainy events this season, Feitelson noted that “just because it was a good January doesn’t mean it will be a good February and March and so on.”

“Altogether, we should continue treating water as a source of life and something that doesn’t come naturally enough in this area,” Schor agreed.

Demand for water in Israel will always be higher than what the country will receive by rain, and expensive desalination and water recycling facilities therefore will continue to play a crucial role, he explained.

“We must always treat water in this area as an expensive resource and we must keep an eye on it,” Schor said.

An incoming storm will likely bring showers and thunderstorms all over the country on Monday night, with scattered light showers from the North to the northern Negev continuing through Tuesday – accompanied by a slight temperature drop, according to the Israel Meteorological Service.

After drenching much of the country on Tuesday, rain and occasional thunderstorms will likely continue in the North and along the coast on Wednesday, with snow covering Mount Hermon, IMS data said.

For Thursday, the IMS forecasted frequent showers in most of Israel accompanied by strong winds and scattered storms, with a risk of flash floods in the East and the South. As temperatures drop to colder than typical all around the country, the Hermon will likely continue to receive snow, IMS data reported. Rain will presumably fall from the North to the northern Negev on Friday, gradually weakening throughout the day, the IMS said.

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