For the first time in seven years, the water level of the Kinneret has risen two meters in a single winter rainy season, according to the latest measurements made today by the Water Authority. Despite the encouraging figure, the Kinneret is still three meters short of being full.
The winter rains have also improved the condition of the mountain aquifer, raising the water level to just above the red line. However, the condition of the coastal aquifer still needs improvement, and the Water Authority is considering halting pumping from it soon, in an attempt to replenish it.
Water Authority Hydrology Service surface water manager Dr. Amir Givati said, "The Israeli water economy is back to normal dimensions after seven years of drought. This year is a turnaround."
Givati added, "To keep the situation normal, we must maintain water discipline, especially given the fact that only in October will we be able to make preliminary forecasts about next winter."
Since the winter of 2005, a two-meter rise in the Kinneret's water level has been a fantasy. It rose by just one meter in each rainy season. In the driest years, such as 2008, the water level rose by just half a meter. Before the drought, the Kinneret's water level rose by an average of 1.60 meters after each winter rainy season, with an inflow of 320 million cubic meters from rivers.
The Water Authority estimates that, by May, 450 million cubic meter of water will flow into the Kinneret. "This winter has given us a gift of water equal to another desalination plant," said Givati. "I estimate that the water level will rise by another half meter by May."
The Water Authority attributes the dramatic improvement in the water economy to the expansion of seawater desalination. Today, half of Israel's drinking water comes from the three main desalination plants at Ashkelon, Palmachim, and Hadera. The Palmachim facility has been expanded to increase its production capacity.
Israel currently desalinates 300 million cubic meters of water a year, and will add another 300 million cubic meters a year in two years, when the Ashdod and Soreq facilities come on line. Givati says that the availability of desalinated water allows the Water Authority to improve water storage at source - in the Kinneret and aquifers.
Pumping from the Kinneret is minimal, and pumping will likely only be increased in May. Mekorot National Water Company estimates that, by the end of 2013, 75% of water supplied to the public will be desalinated seawater.
Despite the encouraging figures, the Water Authority said today that the seven-year drought has created a shortfall of 1.5 billion cubic meters of water in the aquifers and the Kinneret. "The situation is improving, but it is still difficult, and is certainly a long way from being easy. There is a positive trend, but we must conserve. The water crisis isn't over. It simply didn’t worsen this winter," said a senior Water Authority source.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 22, 2012
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