Israel will face a serious water shortage : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wednesday, June 14, 2000 Serious shortage of water is expected

By Zafrir Rinat Ha'aretz Environmental Correspondent

Israel will face a serious water shortage next year that may affect urban and even domestic use, endangering the quality of groundwater and the water of the Kinneret, according to the Mekorot Water Company and senior water officials, who presented worrisome figures on Monday to acting Water Commissioner Yaakov Efrati.

From this year's figures, it is already clear that by the end of the summer, the level of the Kinneret will drop below the lowest red line discussed so far - minus 214 meters. The level of the mountain aquifer will drop to a level that could cause the salinization of the reservoir. If Israel suffers yet another drought next year, it is likely to suffer a shortage of drinking water of 130 million cubic meters, even if the allocation of potable water to farmers is completely halted. In such a situation, it will not be possible to use even the groundwater reservoirs, because they will provide only saline water.

The management committee in the Water Commission held a meeting this week, after which one of the participants commented: "I have never attended such a gloomy and pessimistic meeting." The participants urged Prime Minister Ehud Barak to become involved immediately in the actions to save Israel's water system.

Those who attended the meeting agreed that the recent decisions made by the government - including the establishment of a desalination plant, making wells usable - will not provide an immediate solution to the crisis, because these decisions will be implemented only in a few years' time. They will create tens of millions of cubic meters of water, while the water deficit is expected to be much higher. The participants in the meeting agreed that further cutbacks in water allowances for agriculture this year are impossible because the farmers have already planted their fields.

Sarah Haklai, director of the water resources department at Mekorot, presented a scenario according to which if 2001 has a normal rainfall, and if the cutbacks in water allocations to agriculture remain the same as this year (about 40 percent), there will still remain a deficit of about 120 million cubic meters of water.

If the increase in water consumption persists and no significant new sources of water are developed, the state of Israel's water system will not improve, even if Israel enjoys a few successive rainy years. In such a situation, the expected annual deficit of 120 million cubic meters will continue and the level of the Kinneret will continue to drop each year by about 70 centimeters, falling as low as 215 meters or even lower. The mountain aquifer will continue to lose about 1.4 meters in height each year and will drop far below the red line.

All the experts at the meeting agreed that it will be necessary to cut back urban water use, such as for gardens, parks and washing cars, and perhaps even for domestic use. Ze'ev Golani, hydrological consultant for Mekorot says, "Tel Aviv will be like a third world city. Some streets will not have water part of the time, or some cities will not have water for a few hours each day."

The expected drop in the level of the mountain aquifer by the end of this coming summer, particularly in the northern part of the aquifer in the Hadera-Karkour area, especially troubles the experts. Studies have shown that this area shows a rapid movement of saline water to fresh water areas and a drop in the water level due to pumping. "If the salination process begins, it will be very rapid and irreversible," said Haklai.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 14, 2000

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