The conservation of the River Jordan and its three tributaries – the Hatzbani, the Banias and the Dan – were the main topic of conversation among those present at the second Bi-National Water Symposium, which is being hosted by KKL-JNF in northern Israel this week, with the participation of scientists from Israel and Manitoba, Canada. 

The symposium participants devoted half a day to visits and explanations concerning the sources of the River Jordan and made a comprehensive tour of both the Tel Dan Nature Reserve and of a number of agricultural and water-related projects that use the waters of the Dan. Their guides for the Tel Dan tour were Hillel Glassman, head of the river-monitoring department of the INPA, and Hava Goldstein, the Authority’s Director. This visit gave the visiting scientists an opportunity to observe the nature reserve’s unique vegetation and the rare species that live among it. It also allowed them to experience the great sensitivity with which those in charge treat water-related issues especially this cold stream that flows down into the River Jordan, where it provides Israel with its main source of life-giving water.

Special attention was devoted to the hollow “Winnie the Pooh tree” situated in the “Garden of Eden” area of the Reserve, as it is nicknamed “Winnie” after Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg. The glistening salamander caught and released by one of the Israeli escorts in one of Reserve’s pools likewise drew admiring eyes.

In intervals between one explanation point and the next, KKL-JNF staff described to the Canadian scientists KKL-JNF’s role in developing the Tel Dan Reserve’s infrastructure and in making the site accessible to the disabled.

Participants in the symposium received detailed explanations of the methods used to monitor the quantity and quality of the water in the Dan and of the strict controls applied to ensure that its waters are kept free of environmental pollutants. They viewed the best practical demonstration of this when they visited the trout farm at Kibbutz Dan, adjacent to the Reserve: they heard how the fish were reared in running water at a constant temperature of around 15.5º Centigrade, how they were inoculated at a young age and how an end product of healthy fish weighing up to three kilograms was achieved.

There was another explanation stop where the River Dan is artificially split into two separate channels that serve local irrigation needs on the one hand and the development of natural beauty spots on the other. This part of the tour culminated in a visit to Kibbutz HaGoshrim to view the recycled water reservoir established there with the help of Friends of KKL-JNF Scandinavia. The participants heard a description of the water-purification mechanism that allows effluents treated to only the second level to be used for agricultural purposes. At the reservoirs overlooking the Naftali Hills to the west, they heard how KKL-JNF has contributed to ’s water economy by establishing 212 reservoirs countrywide.  They also learned something of the damage to the Naftali Hills forests caused by the Second Lebanese War, and of the campaign to restore these woodlands that began immediately after the cessation of hostilities.

The afternooours were devoted to a series of lectures by scientists taking part in the symposium. The first speaker was Dr. Gordon Goldsborough, who talked about Manitoba’s extensive marshlands and explained that in Manitoba, unlike Israel, the problem was not the quantity of water available, but, rather, its quality. On this issue, he admitted, “I’ve learned a great deal over the past two days, and hope to leave here at the end of the symposium having learned a great deal more. I’m also looking forward to putting communication between us on a more formal basis in the future.” Dr. Goldsborough and Mr. Malcolm Conly, who spoke after him, presented the development and expansion of wetlands in recent years and enumerated the growing threats to ’s lakes and rivers from pollutants seeping in from dried-up areas.  

After this, three Israeli scientists presented their latest research. Dr. Doron Markel described the extensive monitoring system at ’s catchments basin and illustrated its high level of control with a schematic depiction of data measuring, processing and reporting systems that enable decision-making on the vital issues of both long and short term policies for Kinneret water use. Dr. Haim Gvirtzman of the presented research on the origins and effect of the Kinneret’s salt-water springs, only half of whose saline waters are at present movable through the “saline water carrier” which channels them into the southern sections of the River Jordan. He likewise presented the various theories as to how the salinity of the source of a third of ’s drinking water could be minimized. “In actuality, the National Water Carrier has today become the country’s “salt carrier” as its waters convey thousands of tons of salts to central and thereby increase salinity levels in ground water in the coastal aquifer,” he said.

The day’s series of lectures concluded with a talk by Professor Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute, who presented the prolonged and comprehensive research undertaken by himself and his colleagues in the Negev’s Yatir Forest, one of KKL-JNF’s largest areas of woodland, established and maintained with the help of Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide. This research tracks the forest’s use of meager precipitation levels, the amount of water it emits and the quantity of carbon dioxide it absorbs. The findings are due to be published for the first time in Science in February. Prior to publication, however, this research has already aroused extensive international interest because of its implications for policy-making on preventing desertification and reducing greenhouse gases, which are among the prime causes of global warming.   

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