Unprecedentedly Low Water Levels Feared in Northern Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the Kinneret. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

The rainy season in Israel has begun, and with it the water conservation season.

The Israeli Water Authority has warned that the level in the Kinneret could reach “the lowest level ever recorded” this winter unless the country is favored with abundant rain.

An empty Kinneret, frightening as that would be, would not be the only consequence of insufficient rain. Water sources in the north, including the Banias River in the Golan Heights, would face drying up, an unprecedented disaster.

Currently, hydrologists say that northern Israel has a deficit of 2.5 billion cubic liters of water, or the equivalent of a million Olympic-size swimming pools. If the north does not see at least 85 percent of the average rainfall this winter, the situation would be serious indeed. Last year, northern Israel received just 10 percent of the average.

The long-range forecast is not encouraging either. Meteorologists have predicted that the coming winter will again be extremely dry in the north.

The success of Israel’s desalination program has led many to think the water shortages were a thing of the past. But, according to Uri Schor, the spokesperson for the Water Authority, such is not the case. In fact, the availability of desalinated water has unexpectedly contributed to the overuse of water supplies.

“The fact [that desalination] came online so quickly is amazing,” Schor told The Times of Israel. “This hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world.”

“But this has also made a small problem,” Schor continued. “There’s no lack of water at home, so people don’t understand what’s happening outside. Outside, we are in a really serious drought. This has really affected natural water sources.”

To compound the problem, water experts have for years been proclaiming the success of desalination, and the cost of water decreased by 35 percent over the past decade. As a result, the public has grown used to virtually unlimited use of water.

That’s why Schor is now preparing a major public awareness campaign for early 2018, to encourage people to moderate their use of water at home.

Previous water-saving campaigns have been effective, credited with reductions of as much as 18 percent in home water use during previous drought years.

The campaign won’t depend exclusively on consumer self-control, though. There are also technical solutions. Municipalities should be replacing leaky pipes, which has accounted for reduction of water loss by 9 percent.

In addition, the Water Authority recommends using devices in homes that mix air with water coming out of the taps. This reduces the amount of water used but gives the same impression of a strong stream, thereby easing the hardship of conservation.