Water crisis still dire despite heavy February rains

The overall volume of available water in the Kinneret is nearly 110 million cubic meters less than in an average year.

Rain drops 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rain drops 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
There were significantly more rainstorms in February than in preceding months, particularly in the North, the Water Authority said on Thursday. So much so, that Lake Kinneret rose 54 centimeters.
Last February, the lake rose 37 cm.
The overall volume of available water in the Kinneret, however, is nearly 110 million cubic meters less than in an average year. From the beginning of the rainy season until March 1, 122 million cubic meters of water was available, whereas the average is 229 million cubic meters.
The area is in the midst of a series of arid years that have eaten away any surplus liquid and plunged the country deep into a worsening water crisis.
Just 62 percent of an average winter’s rainfall has fallen with much of the rainy months behind us, the Water Authority said.
While the North received the average amount of rain in February, the Mountain and Coastal aquifers received only 50% of the average.
In the Yarkon-Taninim basin, the western basin of the Mountain Aquifer, the water level rose in the center and northern part by 10-16 cm., but the water level in the southern part dropped by a cm. In the southern part of the basin, the water level is 26 cm. below the red line and 24 cm. lower than it was this time last year.
Even the center part of the basin, which did rise and which is 18 cm. above the red line, is still 35 cm. lower than at this time last year.
Similarly, the northern part of the basin is higher than the red line by 128 cm. but is still 66 cm. lower than it was last year at the same time.
The water levels in the Western Galilee basin were also very low in February. In comparison to last February, The Naaman Basin is 1.83 meters lower and the Cabri Basin is over two meters lower.
Thus, despite the heavier February rains, the water situation is no less dire.
That is why the government has turned to desalination to supplement the natural supply.
Earlier this week, the National Planning and Building Council authorized the expansion of the Palmahim desalination plant. While this is contingent on approval from the district committee as well, the move is part of the government’s emergency plan to increase capacity by about 200 million cubic meters annually by 2014.
In addition to the emergency plan, three more desalination plants are to be built over the next three years. Once all the plants are working, the country will be producing 600 million cubic meters of water from desalination annually. That’s almost the equivalent of the total household demand of 650 million cubic meters a year.
In the meantime, though, the Water Authority is preparing measures to cut back on fresh water allocated to agriculture and watering parks if the winter rains are insufficient.