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.
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