Israel faces unprecedented drought

Farmers Union warns: Water-intensive field crops will decline.

The Water Authority warns that this winter is shaping up to be Israel's worst-ever drought. The Water Authority will only be able to declare a drought in two months, given the fact that except for the mid-December storm, there has been almost no precipitation at all.

The huge December storm blanketed the Jerusalem and the Galilee with snow, causing unprecedented damage to the electricity grid, but failed to boost the water flowenough in the Galilee's rivers. The Kinneret's water level was 211.17 meters below sea level on Friday, 2.5 meters below the upper red line, which denotes that the lake is full. "This is a catastrophe and unprecedented dryness, the likes of which has never been documented," the Water Authority said today.

The Water Authority notes that the 2012-13 winter rainy season ended earlier than normal, at the end of January 2013. It added that the emerging drought in the Middle East is being felt in neighboring countries, and in other Mediterranean climates in the world, including California and southeast Australia. Droughts are also affecting China, Texas, and the US southwest. California's water authorities have slashed water quotas for farming and are considering restricting water supply for other sectors.

"As far as we're concerned, the current situation is a drought, and we're acting accordingly," Farmers Union president Dov Amitai told "Globes" today. "On Friday, I and my colleagues from the north decided to act as if we were in a drought: we're contacting growers in the Galilee and Golan to coordinate crops." He said that unless the precipitation balance changes, water-intensive field crops, such as wheat, potatoes, corn, carrots, and sweet potatoes will decline.

The Farmers Union adds that the drought is forcing cattle farmers to use animal feed, the price of which has skyrocketed in recent months, drying up profits.

The Water Authority said that, despite concern of a severe drought this year, Israel's water economy is prepared for it because of its seawater desalination capacity. Israel has four desalination plants in operation along the Mediterranean with a fifth plant at Ashdod due to come on line soon.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 9, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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