The weather in Israel this week is unseasonably warm, but the country is still reaping the benefits of last week’s cold and rain, as streams of water continue to fill in the country’s aquifers, and especially the Kinneret. Since last Thursday, the Kinneret’s water level has risen six centimeters, and more water is expected to enter the lake in the coming days.
That was the sharpest rise in Kinneret water levels in a single week since the beginning of the winter, said Environment Ministry officials in a statement. Unlike the previous rainy episodes this winter, in which the bulk of moisture fell in the coastal and plains regions, last week’s storm hit the north – and the area around the Kinneret – especially hard, and all the streams and rivers in the north that flow into the Kinneret are full of water.
Despite the fact that Israel has sharply reduced pumping water from the Kinneret, the lake is at a near all time low. With the latest water additions, the lake is at 212.92 meters below sea level – barely five centimeters from the “lower red line,” below which scientists say that irreversible ecological damage will take place. That is the lowest level recorded since 1926, when measurements of the Kinneret were first conducted. 4.12 more meters of water is needed in order to refill the lake to its maximum height.
There are several reasons for the Kinneret’s low level, even though Israelis are using a relatively small amount of its water. One reason is that some of the natural runoff from streams and melting Golan snow has been diverted to underground aquifers, which were also dangerously low. Water management officials say that ensuring the health of the aquifers is a greater need at this time, since the aquifers are needed to pump water for agriculture throughout the country, and are needed to maintain ecological balance in forests and open areas.
About 800 million cubic meters (MCM) of water flows into the Kinneret annually on average. About a tenth of that is pumped to Jordan, as part of the 1994 peace accord between the two countries. One of the biggest reasons for water losses in the Kinneret is due to evaporation, which accounts for as much 300 MCM annually.