(photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
Lake Kinneret and the other natural water sources are likely to reach their
black lines this summer, according to the latest Mekorot projections, the
company’s chief hydrologist told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
RELATED:Lack of winter rains even worse than predicted Ministry to bar boat-based anglers from Kinneret
below the black line vastly increases the chances that the natural reservoirs
will incur irreversible damage.
Dr. Josef Guttman said that in all
likelihood, parts of some of the aquifers would become saline when the fresh
water level dropped low enough to mix with the salt water. While extremely
undesirable, the damage would be reversible over time, he said.
managing a water system in extreme crisis. The situation is very serious, but
it’s under control,” Guttman declared.
The Israel Hydrological Service
provides monthly updates and Mekorot does forecasting as well, he
said. The latest projections show that even if 55 percent of the expected
average rainfall arrives this winter, Lake Kinneret would reach the black line
This winter has been extremely dry so far – in fact, the last
serious rain was in February, according to Guttman. The last six years
have yielded such meager rainfall that the Kinneret and the aquifers have had no
chance to refill to acceptable levels.
No large desalination plants will be ready to add their output to the supply in 2011, Guttman pointed out.
Instead, Mekorot has proposed an emergency plan based on drilling wells,
desalinating brackish water and treating more sewage water that will add 108
million cubic meters of potable water by 2014.
In addition, it will adopt
a very careful and cautious strategy to govern its pumping, Guttman
Mekorot has brought its plan to the National Infrastructures
Ministry and the Water Authority and is awaiting their approval before
beginning. The cabinet was supposed to approve an emergency water plan on
Sunday, but the Carmel fire pushed the vote on the proposal off the agenda. The
water plan will be discussed this coming Sunday instead.
Over the next
two years, Mekorot will drill 35 wells in the North to tap into water sources
that don’t feed into the aquifers. Those wells are expected to add 24 m.cu.m
over the next two years, the company said. In 2013 and 2014, 30 additional wells
are planned that would provide an additional 20 m.cu.m.
Mekorot has also
proposed building three smaller desalination plants to desalinate brackish
water. Brackish water is more saline than drinking water but not as saline as
sea water, Guttman explained. The three plants would desalinate brackish water
found in the coastal aquifer to produce another 60 m.cu.m. by
2014. Desalinating brackish water would have the added benefit of
cleaning up the aquifer.
Wastewater treatment plants in the Kishon
network would produce 24 m.cu.m. annually by 2014, thus freeing up an equivalent
amount of fresh water, according to the plan. Treated wastewater is used
by agriculture for irrigation in place of fresh water.
Mekorot would also have to stop pumping in more sensitive areas and increase
pumping in less sensitive ones.
“There are regions that are more likely
to become saline, like the western part of the mountain aquifer [which runs
under the West Bank] or the area around Pardess Hanna. So we’ll cut back there
and pump more in the Center and around Beit Shemesh,” he told the Post.
Similarly, there will be less pumping in the Western Galilee and around
Asked whether it was likely that Mekorot would at any point over
the next year stop pumping from Lake Kinneret altogether, Guttman emphatically
rejected the notion.
“In 2001, then-water commissioner Shimon Tal created
a stop-pumping black line for Lake Kinneret that is below the current black
line. Our projections don’t forecast reaching that level,” Guttman
This would not be the first time that Mekorot has employed
“strategic pumping.” In the winter of 1998-99, a similar strategy was
employed, the chief hydrologist said. The strategy has also been partly in place
in recent years because of the continuing drought.
While the weather
forecasts are no more optimistic, there is light at the end of the tunnel, those
in charge of the water economy believe. By 2013, the large desalination plants
will be producing a total of 600 m.cu.m. of fresh water a year. With that
man-made addition, Israel will no longer be at the mercy of however much rain
falls from the sky.
That should allow the situation to eventually
stabilize, officials believe, although the water deficit the country is running
right now – the amount of fresh water needed to bring levels up to where the
experts would like – is between 1.5 billion and 2 billion cubic meters, so it
will still be a while before Israel is out of the woods.
Even then, the
Middle East is drying out because of climate change, and water should always be
treated as a scarce commodity, the National Investigation Committee Regarding
the Water Crisis in Israel concluded in its final report earlier this year.