Water, water everywhere… but how much?

With Water Authority employees on strike, no one is measuring the Kinneret.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
January 19, 2010 15:00
3 minute read.

Monday may have been the wettest day all winter, or it might not have been. Lake Kinneret may have risen several centimeters, but no one will know.

As sheets of rain progressively covered the country from south to north, and floods stranded and killed travelers in their cars, there was no one to measure how much rain has been falling because the Water Authority employees have been on strike for the last two months.

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Did the Kinneret rise Monday? Has it risen or fallen in the last two months? No one knows because the water level hasn't been measured since December 3, when it was 5.51 meters below the red line.

An Israeli motorist drowned when his car got caught in a flash flood the South, where stormy weather also blocked the main road to the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

Heavy rains and flash floods left five people dead across the Middle East on Monday, including a British tourist who was killed when a sailboat capsized on the Nile River. The heavy rains also collapsed a dozen mud brick homes in southern Egypt and killed two women there, while an Egyptian man died in a flash flood in northern Sinai, close to Egypt's border with Israel.

Israel temporarily closed its southern border crossings with Egypt and Jordan due to the unusually heavy rains and expected flooding along the border. A bridge collapsed near a cargo crossing between Egypt and Israel.

While MKs fought over and eventually defanged the drought levy, and even as a massive price increase makes its way through the system, there has been no one at the helm. In the offices of the Authority, recording equipment lies idle, gathering dust. Two months of critical hard data, the basis for future decisions as to how to handle the water crisis, have not been recorded.

Permits have not been issued, water corporations go unfunded and all the myriad elements necessary to effectively manage the water economy the Water Authority was created to consolidate under one roof have been neglected.

Amir Shisha, head of the Water Authority employees union, placed the blame squarely on the Treasury.

"We are eight weeks into our strike and no one is measuring the level of the Kinneret or monitoring the flooding streams. Most unfortunately, the Finance Ministry refuses even to enter into negotiations with us," Shisha told The Jerusalem Post Monday.

The employees are striking to protest an increased workload and an organizational overhaul since the Authority's inception in 2007, which they say was imposed upon them without their consent. Several weeks ago, the Treasury dismissed the employees' claims, and it did not respond to a reporter's query on Monday.

Meanwhile, Mekorot, the national water company, said Monday it was working around the clock to capture as much of the run-off from the floods as possible.

Since November, the government corporation has captured 8.5 million cubic meters of floodwater, it said in a statement. Last year, there were no floods.

Mekorot has also been cloud seeding, flying up 30 times so far this season.

The VID Desalination Company announced Monday that it had secured a funding framework from Bank Leumi to expand the Ashkelon desalination plant from 100 million cubic meters of water per year to 120 mcm.

Israel has made desalination the linchpin of its exit strategy from the water crisis. By 2013, the government plans to have in place enough plants to enable a stable water source even in the face of another five years of drought, such as those which have plagued the country since 2005.

In a related matter, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau asked for Germany's help to build sewage treatment plants for the Palestinians, during an official visit he made there Monday.

Landau and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer met with Rainer Brüderle, federal minister of economics and technology, to discuss water and alternative energy technologies.

Landau also received a positive response when he invited Germany to send a delegation to the International Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference in Eilat in mid-February. The ministry is sponsoring the conference.


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