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Kinneret rises to near full capacity
By SHARON UDASIN
01/28/2013
With stormy weather on the horizon, Water Authority spokesman says encouraging water levels doesn't "mean we can splurge."
 
With stormy weather on the horizon for the next few days, the country’s water basins have crept to promising levels already this rainy winter – the Kinneret now lacking less than 2 meters of water from full capacity.

By Monday morning, the Kinneret reached 210.78 meters below sea level, just 1.98 meters from the “upper red line,” or the line that indicates full capacity, data from the Water Authority’s Hydrological Services said. This represented a rise of 2 centimeters from the previous morning’s readings, when the lake lacked 2 meters exactly following a stormy Saturday night.

During the nearly weeklong storm that pounded Israel earlier this month, the Kinneret rose 73 centimeters alone, an increase that was unparalleled for this period of time in two decades, the Water Authority said at the time. 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, according to Schor.

“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 than 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 all over the country. Prof. Eran Feitelson, of the Geography Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, likewise stressed that the increased desalination occurring in Israel 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 as well as expanding the capacity of existing desalination facilities, Feitelson explained. Calling the forecasts for another deluge of 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 roadmap 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 roadmap calls for managing flow to the Lower Jordan River in a constant 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 at the moment 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,” Schor said. “But we are giving much more freshwater altogether to nature and to agriculture, and by recovering the natural sources you recover automatically 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 prevent this from occurring and 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 is always higher than what the country will receive by rain, and expensive desalination and water recycling facilities therefore continue to play a crucial role, he explained.

“We must always treat water in this area as an expensive source 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.

Occasional rainfall will likely dampen the country's North and its coastal region with possible isolated thunderstorms throughout the day on Wednesday, with rain strengthening in the evening and bringing snow over Mount Hermon, the IMS said. On 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.
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