Israel Looks to Rainy Winter to Alleviate Ravages of Drought

A view of the Kinneret.
(Isaac Harari/FLASH90)

A series of drought years have so ravaged northern Israel’s water supply that even a winter of plentiful rain will not suffice to reverse the situation, according The Times of Israel.

In fact, the Israel Water Authority forecasts better-than-average rainfall this coming winter; but after five years of severe drought, it won’t be enough to bring reservoir levels back to anywhere near normal.

“The aggregate shortage over the past five years of drought is enormous,” it said in a statement. “The natural water sources lack some 2.5 billion cubic meters (660 billion gallons) of water. We need an unusually powerful winter to make up these shortages.”

The extended drought has driven these natural reservoirs, and the streams that flow from them, to 98-year lows, according to Water Authority data.

A national water conservation campaign was launched last May, and a recent poll conducted by the Water Authority found that 91 percent of Israelis say they are using less water.

It’s encouraging, but it’s no more than a stopgap. In the not-so-long run, major infrastructure investments will have to answer the problem.

Work is ongoing to distribute desalinated ocean water to more parts of the country. There are also plans to build two desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast to augment the output of the five plants currently in operation.

The Kinneret is a special source of worry. If the country’s major freshwater lake loses as much as another centimeter per day before the first rains come in the fall, it will remove it from the water supply altogether and result in serious, perhaps irreversible ecological damage. To forestall such a calamity, there are plans underway to pump water into the Kinneret from springs and other sources nearby.

One of the alarming signs of the precarious condition of the lake is the appearance in recent months of a new island off the coast of Kibbutz Maagan. According to estimates, the island may even connect to the mainland.