(photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
After reporting Monday that the water level of Lake Kinneret, which supplies some 25 percent of Israel's drinking water, had dipped below the lower red line, the Water Authority plans to reveal an emergency plan at a press conference Tuesday morning.
According to the authority, the level of the lake stood at 213 meters below sea level - the lowest in five years. According to the water company, the last time levels reached this lower red line was in summer 2003.
The Water Authority marks three threshold lines on the lake: The upper red line, the lower red line and the black line. The upper red line is 208.9 meters below sea level; when the lake reaches the upper line, the Deganya Dam is opened to allow greater flow into the Jordan River and prevent the lake from overflowing; if the level reaches the the lower red line, the concentration of pollutants rises to undesirable levels and pumping water from the lake is prohibited.
When the black line - 214.4 meters below sea level - is reached, the openings to the pumps are exposed to the air, and they can no longer send lake water into the National Water Carrier.
There is growing concern that the water level will drop to the black line this summer which, if crossed, would indicate that irreversible damage had been done to the Kinneret. At the bottom red line, the water level is about two meters above the current black line now. The Kinneret loses about a centimeter a day to evaporation alone.
As a result, the possibility of halting pumping from the Kinneret later this summer has been discussed.
Not only the Kinneret has been hard hit by four consecutive years of meager rainfall. The water levels of the mountain and coastal aquifers - Israel's two other sources of fresh water - are also low. If the water level in the coastal aquifer drops by too much, salt water could mix with the fresh water supply.
In response to the crisis, the Water Authority has restricted water use for gardening and requested more desalinated water. Desalinated water has been the government's choice for a solution to plummeting fresh water sources, with several new plants slated to begin operations in the next few years. However, those plants will not be ready in time to address the current water shortage, which is expected to continue into next year.
The public can conserve a significant amount of water through simple measures. Do not run the water while washing dishes - soap up a bunch of them and then rinse them all at once. Take shorter showers. Devices are also available that can be affixed to faucets to regulate their flow, saving water.
Water Authority head Uri Shani has said that practicing water conservation could save an amount equivalent to the output of one large desalination plant.
Water Authority Spokesman Uri Schor told The Jerusalem Post Monday, "We reached the bottom red line this morning and we still have the summer before us."
Schor explained that passing the red line starts "processes that reduce water quality and begins to endanger the water source itself."
We're in crisis, because "there just isn't any water," he said.