Weekend rains bring surge to Kinneret water level

Israelis from the Center to the North take refuge from thundering winds and torrential rains throughout the weekend.

Pedestrians in rain 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Pedestrians in rain 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Israelis from the Center to the North took refuge from thundering winds and torrential rains throughout the weekend, which proved to be the most powerful episode of December precipitation for Lake Kinneret in the past 20 years.
“It was a very good December – it was the best December in the past 20 years,” Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “But it’s still December. It’s the beginning of the winter, and we hope it will continue.”
By Sunday morning, the water level of Lake Kinneret was 212.02 meters below sea level, representing a rise of 23 cm. in just one weekend and leaving the basin only 3.22 m. short of being filled to capacity, according to data from the Water Authority’s Hydrological Services. The last time that “such a sharp rise of 23 cm.” occurred in one rainy December episode was in 1992.
Thus far this month, the water level has risen a total of 38 cm., and from the beginning of the rainy season – October 29 – it has risen 41 cm., the data said. For the sake of comparison, last year the Kinneret’s water level remained stable until December 27, when it began rising.
During this weekend’s rainy period, despite the fact that the country’s Center did receive some storms, the brunt of the precipitation hit the North, Israel Meteorological Services (IMS) reported. On Wednesday night and through the day Thursday, rain fell predominantly in the North and did not begin significantly in the Center until Thursday evening. Throughout the day on Friday, the North and Center received heavy rains, while the South received almost nothing. During Saturday, the rains subsided.
Looking at the cumulative amount of rain since the beginning of the season through today, the amount of precipitation has considerably exceeded the average for the period, giving the North “one of the best starts to the rainy season,” IMS said.
In the past 70 years, there have only been two or three other cases in which the rainy season began this strong, the organization reported.
Over the weekend, the Western Galilee received more than 200 mm.
of water, while the rest of the Galilee and Golan Heights received between 100 and 160 mm., according to the IMS data. The northern coastal plain received between 90 and 140 mm., while the Hula Valley got 70 to 90 mm. In the Kinneret region, the Jezreel Valley, the southern coastal plain and the country’s Center, residents received between 40 and 80 mm. of rain. From the Judean mountains and southward into the Negev, no rain fell at all.
Particularly in the North, the weekend’s rains provided large amounts of much-needed water, even causing “abnormal flows in the streams of the western Galilee and in the Kinneret basin,” the Water Authority said. Flows were particularly strong in the Betzet, Kaziv, Yasaf, Beit Ha’emek and Ga’aton streams. In Ga’aton, there was a flow of 13 cubic meters per second – a flow rate that happens there only on average once every 25 years in December – while Beit Ha’emek presented an even higher flow rate, at 30 cubic meters per second. The streams and rivers of the Hof Hacarmel region also experienced strong flow rates, but the values were not as exceptional as those found in the western Galilee.
In the Kinneret drainage basin, on Friday there were rare flow rates of 59 cubic meters per second at Snir Stream, 31 cubic meters per second at the Hermon, 102 cubic meters per second at the Jordan River’s Sde Nehemia station and about 130 cubic meters per second at the Jordan River’s Hapkak Bridge station.
“The flow rate is so high in the Jordan River during this period of the year that it has not been measured this high since December 1951,” a statement from the Water Authority said.
The highest known peak flows in the Jordan River for any month of the year have been 280 cubic meters per second at Sde Nehemia on December 18, 1951, and 214 cubic meters per second at Hapkak Bridge on January 23, 1969.
During the weekend’s precipitation, some streams in the southern portion of the Golan Heights also began flowing for the first time this season, with the Samach Stream getting 5 cubic meters per second and Sfamnun Stream near the Kinneret receiving 2.5 cubic meters per second. In the center of the Golan Heights, flow rates were higher, with the Yehudiya and Hexagon streams receiving 80 cubic meters per second – both a one-in-seven chance of occurring during this period of the year.
While the rains are encouraging to experts, they stress that there is no way to predict what will occur in the coming months.
“We cannot conclude anything from just one season of abundant rainfall,” Dr. Amos Porat, director of the Climate Department at the Israel Meteorological Service, told the Post.
“It is typical of the climate in this area that there is a large variability of rainfall amounts from year to year.”
In fact, if anything, rainfall amounts in the period of January to March are much likelier to be “close to normal,” according to the long-term forecast of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Porat explained.
“What occurred so far is excellent, hopefully it will continue like that,” added Prof. Eilon Adar, director of Ben-Gurion University’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.
While Adar too stressed that it is difficult to predict what will come, if the rains do continue as they have begun, he said he would look forward to the country being able to pump less and save more.
“This is the best sort of water-saving account that we could have,” Adar said.
After a series of seven drought years, Schor said that the Water Authority is hoping that this will continue to be a productive winter. However, he noted, it is crucial for Israel’s public “to continue consumption in the right manner and prevent waste.”
“That’s true always,” he said.