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December 11, 2000 Mekorot: Drinking water shortage is expected next year

By Zafrir Rinat

Israel's main water sources are expected to decline even further in the coming year, endangering drinking water quality, and raising the specter that it will not be possible to supply drinking water if this winter's rainfall is less than average. Such were the findings of a report submitted to the Water Commission last week, which concluded that none of the proposed methods for augmenting Israel's water supplies would solve its immediate needs. According to the forecast, which was submitted to the Water Commission's operations committee by the manager of Mekorot water company's supply division, Sara Haklai, Israel will experience a water shortage of 90 million cubic meters in the coming year, necessitating continued pumping water from the mountain and coastal aquifers.

According to the report, the water in the two aquifers already had reached dangerously low levels by the end of this year due to overpumping. In its latest monthly report, the Hydrological Service reported that the water level in one of the bores in the mountain aquifer had reached the lowest level since such measurements began.

The members of the committee were warned that overpumping from the coastal aquifer has already caused uncontrollable penetration of seawater into the coastal aquifer and damage to water quality. Investigations carried out by Tel Aviv University have raised concerns that salt-saturated water has penetrated the eastern part of the aquifer from a deeper geological strata, threatening the water quality of the aquifer as a whole.

If the predictions set out in the report are correct, additional pumping next year will cause the coastal aquifer to drop by half a meter and the mountain aquifer to drop by more than a meter. The report also forecasts that the water level in the Kinneret will sink far below 214 below sea level meters, far lower than the declines that occurred this year.

In her report, Haklai points out that the forecast water shortages are based on an estimate of average rainfall in the coming winter, and take into account a 50 percent cut in the amount of fresh water that is allocated to agriculture. However, if this winter turns out to be as dry and warm as the winter of 1998, writes Haklai, then the anticipated water shortage will be much greater, in the order of several hundred million cubic meters.

In such a situation, warns Haklai, not even a much deeper cut in the amount of water allocated to agriculture would be enough to make up the shortfall, and it would not be possible to supply drinking water.

"The reserves are completely finished, and there is no time left for long-drawn out and exhausting procedures," Haklai wrote in the report, in which she urged decision-makers to rapidly implement measures for the desalinization of 100 million cubic meters of water as a first step. Haklai nevertheless pointed out that no process would provide a solution to the immediate water shortage.

-- Martin (, July 25, 2002

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