Israel experiences rare second year of above-average rainfall

The last time two years were recorded with rainfall at this high of a level above average was from 1986-1988.

May rains on the Kinneret, May 5, 2020 (Credit: Alon Daisy/Kinneret Authority)
As rain fell unseasonably late throughout Israel on Tuesday, the Israel Hydrological Service announced that the country had, for the first time in 30 years, experienced its second straight year of above-average rainfall with 24% more rainfall than average recorded.
The rainfall contributed to a substantial 2.98 meter rise in the Kinneret's water level, with the lake sitting at just 12 centimeters under the Upper Red Line marking it full on Tuesday morning. On March 14, the Kinneret passed the line marking 209 meters below sea level for the first time in 16 years and as of Tuesday stands at 208.92 meters below sea level.
Peridinium algae has begun to bloom in the Kinneret for the first time in eight years; poisonous algae did not bloom this year.
Last year was also marked by higher than average amounts of rainfall with 33% more rainfall than average recorded. The Kinneret rose by 3.47 meters last year. The last time two years were recorded with rainfall at this high of a level above average was from 1986-1988.
The Water Authority decided to open a canal to divert five billion liters of water from the Kinneret to the southern Jordan River in April, with the goal of bypassing the Degania Dam in order to avoid negatively affecting pumping stations in the area and the financial costs required to open the dam.
The expectation had been that if the lake exceeded the upper red line threshold, the Degania Dam would be opened and the water would be diverted to the Jordan River. The last time it was opened was in 2013. The dam had been expected to be partially opened at the beginning of May in order to prevent flooding, according to the Kinneret Draining Authority.
Until only 15 years ago, the lake was one of Israel’s primary sources of drinking water, as the country’s first large-scale desalination facility was not built before 2005.
Despite the good news, the amount of water flowing through the Jordan River decreased in April, although the flow is still higher than average.
The flow of the Dan streams that feed into the Jordan River stayed stable this month, with a stream 14% higher than average for this time of year. The flow of the Banias streams that also goes into the Jordan dropped steeply with a 0.9 cubic meter per second drop compared to last month, but the Banias flow is still about 20% higher than average for this time of year.
The Dead Sea's water level rose from January to March, but dropped five centimeters in April and on May 1 stood at 434.25 meters below sea level. During the same period last year, the sea’s fell six centimeters.
The Yarkon-Teninim aquifer rose by an average of 31 cm. throughout the aquifer. The coastal aquifer rose by five cm. in the South, 9 cm. in the center of the country and stayed stable in the North. The Neeman aquifer dropped by 4 cm. and the Cabri aquifer dropped by 5 cm.
The five years prior to these past two above-average years were much dryer. On a perennial average of the last 30 years, the amount of rainfall in the region is decreasing.
Sarah Vorsanger/Zavit and Dominik Doehler contributed to this report.