(photo credit: )
The Kinneret Basin Authority was established this week to protect the soil in the region surrounding Israel's largest freshwater source.
Lake Kinneret has long been an environmental concern due to its receding water level, and most recently, last week's forced closing of its public beaches due to sewage contamination of the water.
The new authority, chaired by Lower Galilee Regional Council mayor Moti Dotan, is not anticipated to incur any costs. Instead it is expected to save approximately NIS 55 million a year by precluding the need to extensively clean the surrounding rivers annually, and by preventing water runoff which will enable local farmers to preserve the water and reuse it, relieving some of the pumping strain already on the Kinneret itself.
Dotan told The Jerusalem Post that he hoped the revitalization of the Kinneret basin would boost tourist activity in the region. "People like to walk around the rivers, but right now they hate to because the water is not clean. If we cleaned the rivers then people would love to come."
A pilot revitalization program, which began two years ago in the Yavniel River, has seen great success. The program includes the planting of low-water trees and species of grass along the river banks, which has enabled the plants to hold the soil that would otherwise have been lost in runoff and muddied the rivers.
"I believe that in a decade, all the rivers in the region of the Kinneret will be clean and lively tourist areas. And I believe we will have a much cleaner Lake Kinneret. For all of the people who rely on agriculture in the North for their living, we will have - in the end - saved them a lot of money."
Global warming was another consideration in creating the Kinneret Basin Authority. Dotan predicted that as winters shorten and rain comes in acute, more intense bursts, the basin would be exposed to the risk of soil loss to the surrounding bodies of water.