Kinneret rises only 16 centimeters in January

Water Authority Spokesman Uri Schor says Israel has only gotten about a third of the rain compared to last year when the level rose 60 centimeters.

Rain drops 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rain drops 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The water level of Lake Kinneret has risen 2.5 centimeters since Sunday and 5.5 centimeters since the beginning of the storm on Thursday. In total, the Kinneret has risen 15 to 16 centimeters in January, Water Authority Spokesman Uri Schor said on Monday.
However, “last January, the water level of the Kinneret rose 60 centimeters. So we’ve only gotten about a third of the rain that we did last year – and last year was not such an amazing year to begin with,” Schor said.
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The rain poured down on the north and the coast on Saturday, dumping between 20-28 centimeters as recorded by a number of monitoring stations run by the Israel Meteorological Service.
By Sunday, the rain had shifted east and south, drenching Jerusalem and Beersheba, a trend which continued on Monday. The rains are only expected to taper off Wednesday.
Israel is in the latest of a series of below-average years of rainfall, going back to 2004. Thus far, this winter ranks with 2008 as the worst of the last six years and the Water Authority and the National Infrastructures Ministry are in the process of implementing an emergency plan for the next two to three years.
On Sunday, the cabinet approved the first part of the plan, which included expanding the desalination plant capacities.
Schor told The Jerusalem Post the emergency plan includes measures to both increase supply and curb demand.
“On the supply side, the desalination plants’ capacities will be increased. We are going to desalinate more brackish water as well. We’ll drill more wells and we’ll increase the amount of sewage that is treated and reused for agriculture.
Right now, 80% of sewage is reused, but we want to push that higher,” he said.
“On the demand side, we’re increasing our public awareness campaigns to encourage conservation. We’re also doing more inspections and enforcement,” according to Schor.
The Water Authority has just completed giving out two million free water saving devices for faucets. Schor said that represented about 40% of households.
“We’re going to continue the campaign and target another 15% of the population,” he said.
The Water Authority will also launch a campaign to rehabilitate pipes in old buildings.
Schor said there were a number of measures the Water Authority was weighing whether to implement depending on how bad the winter turns out to be.
“We’re considering cutting the allocation to agriculture and to public gardens.
We’re also weighing changing the pricing structure,” such that heavy water users would pay more while light users would pay less, he said.
On Sunday, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said one of the measures he would present in the coming month for cabinet approval would be state subsidies for water so that the public would not have to undergo another price hike.
Water prices rose 32% last year as Mekorot, the national water company, is preparing to connect the additional desalination plants to be built over the next three years to the National Water Carrier.
In addition to the hookups, the flow in the carrier must be altered from north-south to east and then north and south as vastly more water will be produced via desalination than will be pumped from the Kinneret.
More water is already produced by desalination than pumped from the Kinneret and the amount of desalinated water is expected to more than double over the next two to three years.