At the end of the 2008-2009 hydrological year which ends in October, the level of Israel's major water sources - including Lake Kinneret and aquifers - were down almost a meter compared to last year, the Water Authority said Sunday based on initial estimates.
A complete report is due out soon.
Those numbers do not bode well at all for Israel. The past five years have been very dry years. The fact that the aquifers and Lake Kinneret are down compared to last year is another indication that the situation is dire. The Water Authority has predicted that the black lines - which are even lower than the red lines - will be reached this year sometime in December. If this happens it signals irreparable damage to the environment.
The Water Authority decided to tackle the scarcity by targeting household use after cutting water for agriculture in previous years and implementing lawn watering restrictions as well. They imposed a drought levy earlier this year despite fierce objections. The Knesset is set to discuss the drought levy again on Monday.
The El Nino effect might have an impact on rainfall in the region, but it is unclear whether it will bring more rain or exacerbate the drought. Rainfall since September has been sporadic but hard when it does arrive. However, the situation is still critical.
Lake Kinneret dropped another 18 cm. to -1.24 meters below the red line and the Dead Sea dropped another 1.19 meters in 2008-2009.
In the coastal aquifer, the average water level in the southern part is down 0.6 meters compared to last year. However, the western part is down around 0.9 meters. Nevertheless, the central and northern parts of the aquifer actually rose 0.1 meters this year. Initial estimates indicate the aquifer provided 22 million cubic meters (mcm) of water in 2008-2009.
The mountain aquifer was also down an average of 0.90 meters compared to last year. The water level in the southern part was 13 cm. below the red line - a new low for the aquifer. The central part was down 67 cm. below the red line, and the northern part was 26 cm. above the red line.
While unable to make up all of the significant shortfall, the 100 mcm desalination plant in Hadera is set to come online in coming months. That 100 mcm. would join the roughly 150 mcm. to be produced this year from the Ashkelon and Palmahim plants after both plants agreed to increase their output this year.
A 150 mcm. plant at Sorek is in the planning stages. The goal is to reach 600 mcm. by 2013 or so, and to reach 750 mcm. late in the coming decade. The 750 mcm. roughly corresponds to total household consumption at present.