Rising water levels in the Sea of Galilee… but not the Jordan River

A Jerusalem Post article reports that the Sea of Galilee, after years of receding water levels, has filled up this winter and is now less than two meters from full capacity. Heavier-than-usual winter rains are a factor, but so is a significant change in water management policy.

The Galilee lake is Israel’s primary freshwater reservoir, servicing a majority of Israel’s growing population. Heavy pumping has taken its toll over the decades and brought the lake to dangerously low levels. The Jordan River, whose flow depends on the Sea of Galilee, has been reduced to a pitiful, dirty stream and the Dead Sea has receded to the point of dividing into separate lakes.

lkjasdf (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The Sea of Galilee shoreline during the dry season in summer, 2012. The entire foreground used to be covered until drought and heavy pumping lowered the water to the level seen here. With changes to Israel’s water management policy, perhaps the water will once again cover this entire area throughout the year. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The government began to take serious action a few years ago. It has invested in a number of desalination plants to convert seawater for domestic use. It is also recycling waste water for agricultural use, reducing the reliance on water pumped from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river. Israel is working with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to find ways of rehabilitating the Jordan river and Dead Sea.

We are pumping from Kinneret [the Sea of Galilee] less than half of the average pump than we had previously done. The policy is to try to revive the natural sources of water. (Uri Schor, Israel Water Authority)

The immediate plan does not involve increasing the outflow of water to the Jordan River and Dead Sea. The first priority is the lake. Once its ecological health has stabilized, the government will then look to the river. The article states that, “With the welcome rising levels of Kinneret basin, the country could benefit from releasing some of that added freshwater to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River, once the river’s sewage is cleaned…”

“With the dramatic reduction in pumping from the Sea of Galilee, not only in this great year of rain, but even in average years of rain, the Sea of Galilee is likely to be a very healthy lake with high potential for overflow to supply to the Lower Jordan River.” (Gidon Bromberg)

The restoration of Israel’s natural water system includes its rivers and its underground aquifer. It will be a years-long process before it can approach the ecological health it once enjoyed. The progress mentioned in this article is a good first step.

HT: Todd Bolen


About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads informative, meaningful tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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2 Responses to Rising water levels in the Sea of Galilee… but not the Jordan River

  1. Israeli AND Jordanian Water Use

    It is great to hear that things are looking up for the Lake of Galilee and the Lower Jordan Valley this year.

    It should be remembered that if the water systems of the Lake of Galilee and the Yarmuk River were left in their natural state, that the Yarmuk River (flowing [in its natural state] from the Golan into the Jordan River) provides about the equivalent amount of water into the Lower Jordan River as does the outflow of the Jordan from the Lake of Galilee. The fact is that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is diverting massive amounts of the Yarmuk River water for agricultural use on their side of the Jordan Valley. (is any of the Yarmuk water currently

    Thus the meager flow of water in the Lower Jordan—and the problems that the Dead Sea is experiencing—are not exclusively due to Israeli pumping water for its use, but also due to the Jordanian diversion of the Yarmuk water for Jordan’s use!

    • lukechandler says:

      Exactly true. The article is from an Israeli publication and focuses on improvements to Israel’s water management. I referenced Jordan and the PA but didn’t go into any detail. Thanks for bringing this up. It is an issue whose causes – and solutions – come from all the states in the region.

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