(photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
The Kinneret has reached its lowest level in five years, the Water Authority announced Monday. The water level in the Kinneret was -212.59 meters on Tuesday, which is 3.79 m. below the top red line. The last time the Kinneret dropped that low was on March 9, 2003.
Israel's main source of drinking water dropped 42 cm. in 2007, the authority said.
In addition, since 2004, the Kinneret's water level has been steadily decreasing. This is in part because of below-average rainfall over the last three years, the Water Authority said.
If this winter does not produce more rainfall, it will be the worst four years since the early 60s, the authority warned. Four consecutive years of below-average additions to the Kinneret have only occurred twice in the last 77 years.
The authority has been doing what it can in both the short term and the long term, Uri Schor, Water Authority spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
In the short term, pure drinking water will be diverted from agricultural use to households, he said.
In addition, the authority has embarked upon a campaign to promote efficient use of water. It's a campaign with a twist, as it's directed at Israel's youngest inhabitants.
"The focus of the campaign is on children. We've been very active in media which target kids, which is therefore not so visible [in the main media outlets]," Schor said.
"If I come into your house and see you washing dishes and the water is running all the time, I'll ask you to stop and change how you wash your dishes. And to be polite, you'll do so, but go back to what you know tomorrow," he explained.
"However, if parents feel a tug on their leg while they are washing dishes and their children ask them to change their ways, then they will, because they want to assure their children they've been taught the right message."
Beyond the children's campaign, Schor said he and the Water Authority were gearing up for a bigger campaign in late February and early March to appeal to the general public to save water. The campaign is timed to coincide with the rise in demand for water which comes in the spring, Schor said.
In the long term, Israel has put its full support behind desalination plants.
"In the longer range, the Water Authority is working to stabilize the water market and reduce reliance on natural sources," Schor told the Post in November.
There are currently two desalination plants operational in Israel and another three expected to be online by 2013.
The plant in Ashkelon is the biggest of its kind in the world and produces 108m. cubic meters of water a year, Schor said. A smaller one in Palmahim produces 30m. cubic meters.
A plant near Hadera is set to open by 2009 with a capacity of 100m. cubic meters. Another two plants, one in Ashdod and another near Nahal Sorek, are expected to be ready by 2013.
The total capacity of all the plants would then stand at 505m. cubic meters a year, which would go a long way toward satisfying demand, Schor said. Israel consumes about 700m. cubic meters of pure drinking water a year.
At one point a few years ago, Israel had signed an agreement to bring water from Turkey via tanker. However, that deal fell apart and would be unlikely to be renewed, Schor said Tuesday, since "it is cheaper to desalinate water."
Despite Israel's world-leading desalination efforts, Schor warned that care must be taken not to abuse the country's natural resources.
"We cannot let those resources run out. We must take care of them to be able to pass them on to our descendants," he declared.