After five decades, Ein Gedi stream flows again

Ein Gedi stream dried up in '50s because of kibbutz's development.

stream 63 (photo credit: )
stream 63
(photo credit: )
The Ein Gedi stream started flowing on Monday for the first time in 50 years, following an agreement signed in May 2007 between Kibbutz Ein Gedi and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The agreement stipulates that the kibbutz must let water flow from the Ein Gedi spring into the stream before drawing it for kibbutz use. The agreement also limits the amount of water that the kibbutz may use, thereby increasing the flow from the spring to the stream. The stream dried up in the 1950s because those developing the kibbutz needed its water for agriculture. After that, until the signing of the agreement, the kibbutz drew water directly from the spring, which was the stream's source. The Ein Gedi water company also drew from the spring prior to the deal. "We didn't deal with the principal question of whether the kibbutz needed to get this water," said Omri Gal, an assistant spokesperson for INPA. "We took as a given that the kibbutz needed that water. Our goal was to lessen the damage to the water. The previous situation was unacceptable, and the stream was a tragedy." Several months later, after the kibbutz dismantled its water-drawing facilities, water has begun to flow down the stream at a rate of 10 meters per second, a number that should rise to 25 by the time the process is completed. Though the Ein Gedi water, if not drawn, would flow to the Dead Sea, Gal said that its reaching the stream brought tremendous benefit to the surrounding area, as well as to the government agency that protects it. "This is an amazing thing for the environment," he said. "Ein Gedi is an important natural area. There have been guards working there for 30 years, and for them this is a holiday." The INPA is relying on the government guards and the kibbutz to sustain the water flow, and Gal has faith that the deal will create a paradigm that can last for years to come. "There's a good partnership between the guard and the kibbutz," he said. "In principle, this is a permanent agreement - [although] I can't tell you what will happen in 50 years." While the kibbutz is also pleased to see water flowing again, spokesperson Meirav Ayalon said the agreement was a formality and that the kibbutz did not attribute much importance to the process. "If this can calm down the public, we don't care," said Ayalon. "Whatever is greener is better for us. This area is our home." Now that the stream has been rejuvenated, plans are in the works to revive the local ecosystem, including planting thousands of indigenous trees near the stream and attracting animals that used to graze in the area. "Ein Gedi used to be unique," said Gal. "We want to revive the flora and bring back the water. It will look like it did in days of old."