Water from Lake Kinneret began to flow on Sunday afternoon into the Jordan
River, signaling the onset of a comprehensive government plan to rehabilitate
the polluted and diminished river.
The project will enable the discharge
of approximately 1,000 cubic meters of water per hour, with the ultimate goal of
replenishing the Jordan with 30 million cubic meters per year. At the same time,
sewage and brackish water will be removed from the riverbed and treated,
according to the Water Authority, which is overseeing the project in conjunction
with many other organizations and government bodies.
establishment of the Deganya Dam in 1964, water has not been proactively
released from the Kinneret basin into the Lower Jordan River, the Water
“Israeli water has recovered from a major crisis that
befell us for the past eight years,” Water Authority Commissioner Alexander
“We have established a system of desalination plants, water
purification and waste water reuse facilities, along with optimizing the use and
conservation of citizens – which has enabled the Water Authority to
significantly increase the amount of water allocated to nature, along with the
ever-increasing restoration of natural water resources.”
With funds coming
from all of the authorities involved with the project, the overhaul of the
contaminated river aims to restore the ecology and thereby develop tourism in
the region, the Water Authority explained.
The other organizations and
bodies participating in the cleanup that came together as the Jordan
Rehabilitation Administration in 2009 under the Lower Jordan River Drainage
Authority and including the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Israel Nature
and Parks Authority, Emek Hamayanot Regional Council and Keren Kayemeth
LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.
A primary goal of the project involves
replacing the polluted water in three separate transports – a sewage water
transport, a high salinity brackish water transport and a low salinity water
transport, the Water Authority said. After wastewater from Tiberias and from the
Jordan Valley are treated, all resultant water will be allocated for
agricultural purposes and will not be returned to the river.
some of the saline water will also be made useable by means of desalination
Water from the Tiberias hot springs and other salty wells will
be separated from the water transfer conduit and will instead be used for fish
breeding in southern Emek Hamayanot, the Water Authority said. The remainder of
the desalinated salty water and between 17 and 20 million cubic meters of water
from the Kinneret will flow into the Jordan River, totaling about 30 million
cubic meters per year. The flow will gradually increase to the program’s full
intended quantity within two years, the Water Authority added.
return of flow from the Kinneret to the Jordan is another symbolic but important
step in the restoration of Israel’s natural systems,” Israel Nature and Parks
Authority director-general Shaul Goldstein said. “The successful cooperation
among the authorities plus the development of desalination technologies brings
changes that will benefit nature.”
Shimon Ben-Hamo, CEO of the Mekorot
national water company, praised the “revolution to the water sector” that has
occurred in recent years, particularly the entrance of desalination into the
market – which has in turn reduced the necessity of pumping the nation’s
Rehabilitating the Jordan River means restoring an asset that
will enable Israel to attract visitors from all over the world, according to
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz.
“The rehabilitation of the
Jordan is a direct continuation of projects like the restoration of the Kishon
or the restoration of other rivers that have been transformed from neglected
backyards into places of recreation and leisure for residents,” Peretz
Although in principal in favor of recharging the Jordan River with
a clean and reliable water supply, regional environmental organization Friends
of the Earth Middle East has repeatedly said that the 30 million cubic meter
quantity will not be sufficient for the Lower Jordan’s needs.
between 400 and 600 million cubic meters of water is necessary to replenish the
river’s supplies, and Israel should be providing at least 220 million cubic
meters of that amount, according to Friends of the Earth reports.
should be responsible for 90 million cubic meters while Syria should be
responsible for 100 million cubic meters, they added.
Saad Abu Hammour,
head of the Jordan Valley Authority on the Jordanian side of the river, has
praised the Israeli project and has said that the Jordanian team is working
together with the Israeli team.
“On the one hand we want to congratulate
where congratulations is required,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of
Friends of the Earth Middle East. “We welcome this historic first effort and
this culminates almost a decade of campaigning and educating for the
rehabilitation of the Jordan.”
When Friends of the Earth first began
advocating for a river restoration using Kinneret waters, previous water
officials had said that such an effort would be entirely impossible, Bromberg
“That said, our concern is not only that this is not anywhere
near the 220 million cubic meters that we have identified is necessary – our
concern relates to the process,” Bromberg said.
The master planning
process led by the Lower Jordan River Drainage Authority has not involved an
independent, expert hydrological table analysis of the Jordan River before
determining the restoration quantities necessary, Bromberg argued. Only once
such an analysis occurs should the drainage authority be negotiating with the
Water Authority about precise amounts, he added.
“At the moment the Water
Authority is deciding how much it thinks it can provide without any independent
analysis being done as to what is needed to rehabilitate the river,” Bromberg
“We cannot accept the process that is currently moving forward
because it is moving forward in a non-transparent manner that prevents public
debate, which is actually needed for the ecological rehabilitation of the Lower