Despite storm, Kinneret water level near 'black line'

Lake 522 cm. below top capacity, 85 cm. above dangerous "black line"; small rise from last week’s storm is no cause for celebration.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
December 24, 2010 07:01
4 minute read.
Fishing in the Kinneret

kinneret fishing. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Last week’s severe storm slightly raised the water level in the Kinneret for the first time in seven months, according to data supplied by the Water Authority to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night.

But the lake is hovering just 85 centimeters above the dangerous “black line,” below which irreversible damage is risked, and is set to hit that line in the summer if this winter doesn’t get a great deal wetter.

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The water level rose 10 cm. – equivalent to a respectable 18 million cubic meters of water, the data showed. Most of the increase was from rain falling directly on the lake, according to the Water Authority’s summary of the most severe storm in the state’s history, which swept through the country last weekend with very strong winds that caused serious damage.

Although this marked the first time the water level rose since May 11, there are two acutely worrying factors that reduce the significance of this latest rainfall, officials stress.

First, the Kinneret’s level is still 1.02 meters below the “bottom red line” and only 85 cm. above the “black line.” While it is 25 cm. higher than the same time last year, this is still cause for grave concern among those in charge of the water supply.

Second, the first significant rainfall of the 2010/11 hydrological year occurred in the second week of December. And while the Kinneret’s level rose some more after the storm, as further rain trickled down through the streams to the lake, last year the water level had started rising on October 29 and not December 10.

The water that fell only just balances out the 15 million cubic meters of water taken from the lake since the hydrological year began on October 1. November was one of the driest months on record. In the past seven months, the water level has dropped a sharp 1.46 meters, according to the data provided by the Water Authority.



“The important thing is to understand the severe lack of water,” Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor told the Post on Thursday night. “While the water level rose 10 cm., we are still 520 cm. from a full Kinneret.”

The current crisis is compounded by the fact that this is the seventh year of little rainfall. For six years, the level of Lake Kinneret has been steadily dropping. While there have been other lean times, most notably in 2001, the accumulation of year after year of less than average rainfall has dragged the water levels closer and closer to the black line.

Dipping below the black line would mean increased salinity and the growth of seaweed that would begin to choke the life out of the Kinneret and damage the lake itself. The latest predictions from Mekorot – the national water company – indicate Lake Kinneret will reach the black line by summer unless significant amounts of rain fall this winter.

Given the years of rainfall to make up, one severe storm, while welcome, does little to change the underlying crisis that the current water level of the Kinneret represents, officials note. There’s just been less and less fresh water available from natural sources each year for much of the past decade.

Fully cognizant of the dire straits Israel could well enter into this year if the rains do not come, the National Infrastructures Ministry is due to submit an emergency water plan for the next two years to the cabinet for its approval in the coming weeks.

According to a briefing the cabinet received two weeks ago, the main pillars of the plan will be more desalination and more wells drilled. The goal is to increase the water supply by roughly 215 million cubic meters a year by 2014. By 2013, an additional 400 million cubic meters a year should be produced by three new desalination plants – two in Sorek and one in Ashdod, irrespective of the amounts generated under the emergency plan.

The emergency plan would provide an additional 100 million cubic meters by sometime next year, with various elements of the plan falling into place over the following three years. It is only by 2013-4, when at least 70 percent of the water that people drink will be derived from desalination, that officials believe Israel will have achieved enough of a buffer to reduce the water crisis from acute to merely critical.

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