Human and Environmental Influences on Israel's Water Resourc

At first, there was time to be amazed by the thick and unique vegetation, the streams of water and pools full of St. Peter's fish, the birds, and particularly the explanations of Eli Raz, a geologist and biologist,

January 19, 2010 14:56
3 minute read.
H2010 - Human

H2010 - Human. (photo credit: kkl)


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Participants of the Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium, most of them Canadian citizens who are visiting Israel for the first time, looked out at the Judean Desert from their bus, on their way to the Dead Sea, for a special visit to the Einot Zukim Nature Reserve. The expressions of amazement on their faces when they saw the green oasis surrounded by a flat, salty desert left no room for doubt: for them, Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve is nothing short of a miracle of nature.

This visit, however, was anything other than a simple tourist visit to a regular site. The participants are all scientists who deal with different aspects of water usage, water conservation and restoration of damaged water reservoirs. The group of Canadian scientists from the Province of Manitoba had made the long trip to Israel to meet their Israeli colleagues and to share their accumulated professional experience with them, as part of the collaboration between the government of Manitoba and KKL-JNF. Here, next to the thick water reeds that suddenly end at a muddy plain, located on what, during the 1980s was the beach of the Dead Sea, they saw the results of progress and development in the Middle East. They heard about the results of overuse of water on the one hand and the drop in annual precipitation over past years on the other.

At first, there was time to be amazed by the thick and unique vegetation, the streams of water and pools full of St. Peter's fish, the birds, and particularly the explanations of Eli Raz, a geologist and biologist, who lamented the sad future in store for the nature reserve: "If the state doesn't commit itself to stopping the decline of the reserve, due to the huge receding of the Dead Sea and the phenomenon of the 'escape' of sweet water through ground layers that are no longer subject to pressure from the Dead Sea, most of the vegetation here will dry up. The result will be the extinction of rare species of animals that developed here in isolation from the ancient ocean environment from which their 'ancestors' arrived."

For quite a while, the visiting scientists toured the nature reserve, asking for more and more details on the unique processes that take place in it and on the geological phenomena common to the region.

In the north of Israel, on the southern beach of Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, the symposium participants heard an introduction to Kinneret research and processes occurring through climate change on the one hand and water usage on the other, since the lake supplies about a third of Israel's drinking water. The introduction to Kinneret research was presented by Dr. Doron Markel, head of the Kinneret Authority in the Water Authority. On the lawns of Beit Gavriel on the shores of the Kinneret, Dr. Markel explained the Kinneret water level measurement and the decrease of the high point of the minimal "red line" to minus 215 meters below sea level. Beneath this level, it is no longer possible to pump water from the Kinneret to the National Water Carrier. It was necessary for some of the Israeli participants to explain to the guests from Manitoba, where there are 110,000 lakes, what an important and unique asset Lake Kinneret is for Israel and why there was a sign that said "The Eye of Israel" at Beit Gavriel, facing the magnificent scenery.

To complete the day's picture, the symposium participants visited the Sapir Site, which houses the giant pumps of the National Water Carrier. After hearing explanations on how the Water Carrier was built and how it is operated, the group visited the pumps facility. At the end of the visit, all the scientists assembled at the Yigal Alon Kinneret Laboratory, where they heard reports by lecturers who are responsible for the daily monitoring and research of the Kinneret's water, about their work, problems and challenges. Dr. Assaf Sukenik, described the entire monitoring and research project, including water quality and its changes, the monitoring of phenomena caused by changes in water composition such as poison algae or seasonal proliferation of various sorts of bacteria and the monitoring of the lake's fish population.

The guests asked many scientific questions and were especially interested in the work methods of the laboratory and their results. This was because the Province of Manitoba also deals with problems caused by human and environmental influences on the main lakes in its territory and one of the main goals of the Symposium is to expand scientific cooperation between Manitoba and Israel.

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