Meteorological Service: Don't blame global warming for water woes

Precipitation problem could account for some shortages, but water waste and misuse is a major factor.

kinneret 224.88 (photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
kinneret 224.88
(photo credit: Jonathan Beck)
As Israelis search desperately to find someone or something to blame for the water shortages plaguing the nation, they may have to look no farther than a mirror. Though temperatures shot to a record high on Sunday, up to 38º in some areas, the current weather patterns do not indicate that Mother Nature is at fault for the water concerns facing the country. "Let's not be so quick to blame global warming," said duty forecaster Robert Olimsky of the Israel Meteorological Service. Though the IMS is predicting the current heat wave to continue through Wednesday morning, Olimsky stressed that this is just an extreme of what normally happens this time of year, saying that trends over decades, rather than a few days, are necessary to deduce that global warming is the cause of weather changes. Despite the cold winter and the unusual amount of snow in Jerusalem this past winter, precipitation was "well below average" for the season by roughly 30%, according to the IMS. This year was the fifth winter to fall short of expected rainfall, for which the IMS does not have conclusive explanations. "Who's to say it's not a natural trend?" said Olimsky. "A four-year trend is not a definite indication of anything, though it could be read as a warning sign." According to the Water Authority, the current level of Lake Kinneret is 212.53 meters below sea level. That's 3.73 meters below the maximum limit of minus 208.8 meters, and dangerously close to the low "red line" of minus 213 meters, The Jerusalem Post reported in January. Israelis are clamoring for answers, with many pointing the finger at global warming. Olimsky is quick to note, however, that the impending dry season is nothing new. "We're not predicting a drought," he said. "Summers are always dry here." The extended precipitation problem could account for some of the water shortages, but more importantly, residents need to attribute the shortages to water waste and misuse; without increased conservation efforts, Israel's water shortage will continue to be a problem no matter how much rain falls, as the population continues to grow. Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra and Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's federal minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, along with senior officials of their respective ministries met on March 17 within the framework of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Israel as part of an extended plan to cooperatively take steps toward resource conservation. Water and river restoration are on the list of important issues slated to be tackled.