Officials: Wet Winter Unlikely to Help Kinneret, Aquifers

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

Despite an optimistic winter forecast, the wetter than average rainy season predicted for Israel this year – if it indeed comes to pass – will have almost no impact on the country’s water economy, which has been badly hit by five years of average or below-average rainfall, the Water Authority said in its annual pre-winter forecast.

According to the Meteo-Tek weather forecasting organization, the chances for a wetter winter, at least in the first part of the season, is greater than the chances for average or below-average rain. The prediction is based on atmospheric conditions and climate conditions based on an analysis of the past 30 years of similar factors, the organization said.

Despite that, the country’s water supply is in very poor shape, the Authority said. The Kinneret is currently nearly several meters below its maximum, and would need 2.5 million cubit meters of water to be filled to the maximum. The country’s aquifers are in very poor shaped as well, it said. Even if rainfall were better than average this winter, it would still take several years to restore the water that has been lost in the past five years.

One strategy to repair the damage involves a plan by Energy, Water and Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz to pump desalinated water into the Kinneret and the aquifers. In an interview with Yediot Acharonot. Steinitz said “We will begin pumping water into the Kinneret next year from our existing water purification and desalination facilities, and within three years we will build a new facility that will supply enough water to save the lake. The danger is clear and imminent. The Kinneret is closer than ever to the ‘black line,’ which will essentially kill it as a lake. The situation in the aquifers, springs and streams is even worse,” Steinitz said.

Until now, the government’s policy has been to develop water sources that would provide enough water to residents and industry, “but we have changed that outlook,” Steinitz said. “We are now including dealing with droughts and concern for nature in our policy.” With that in mind, the government has already approved a plan to double the amount of desalinated water in use in Israel, he said. As part of the plan, the National Water Carrier will be adjusted to transport water from various new desalination and water treatment plants to all parts of the country, including to the Kinneret.