Not only because of the rains: the "open secret" that helps to raise the Sea of Galilee
The rise of the Sea of Galilee is due to the large amounts of rainfall this winter, but also to the fact that almost no water is drawn from it. Many do not know this, but most of the drinking water in Israel and the water used for agriculture come from the desalination plants and the catchment of the floodwater. "We don't have to worry more about drinking water shortages"
Not only because of the rains: the "open secret" that helps to raise the Sea of GalileePhoto: Mekorot
It is not only the considerable rainfall that has fallen this season that is responsible for raising the level of the Sea of Galilee to the current level and preparing to open the Degania dam. The full truth behind the blessed phenomenon of the filling lake is also the fact that the pumping of water from the Sea of Galilee has stopped almost completely in recent years. Very little water is pumped for local consumption, for example near Kibbutz Ein Gev.
An open secret is that it is not rainwater, but desalination plants today provide most of the drinking water in Israel, sewage is reclaimed for irrigation in agriculture, and rainwater is caught in seasonal lakes and introduced into the subsurface. Consumption is also more informed and sophisticated, especially in agriculture, where Israel is a world leader. Water management as a whole has become much more efficient than before. Thus, desert land as Israel gained independence from the whims and frills of nature.
Just 18 years ago, in June 2001, a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the water sector was set up in the face of a growing sense of crisis, following three years of dread and fear that before the end of the summer a shortage of drinking water could be created in the country. The chairman of the committee, former MK David Magen, reported at the end of the commission's work that the investigative committee's activities, either knowingly or unknowingly, accelerated the pace of government work with regard to taking emergency measures in the crisis, and a solution was found.
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"Ready for all the challenges." Measurement of sea level rise last month (Photo: Kinneret Authority)
The Sea of Galilee rose in the wake of the rains. December 28, 2019 (Photo: Kinneret Authority, courtesy of the photographers)
"We don't have to worry more about drinking water shortages - period," she told Walla! NEWS Prof. Nurit Calliott from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa, a water expert. The heads of the water industry say this in a whisper, if any. It's almost a state secret and some say there's a reason for it. "This is well-known information, but we do not want to say it out loud, so that Palestinians and Jordan will not receive requests for these water, either directly or through international bodies," says Prof. Cliott.
These are concerns about the idea of the "New Middle East" as the vision of Shimon Peres, who in his book by that name stated that "the water in the Middle East does not belong to a particular country, but to the whole region."
"The Palestinians, whether we want to or not, are partners in the mountain aquifer," recalls Professor Nurit Cleo. "Israel oversees how much water the PA draws. Some fear that if we start out loud to say that we have no drinking water problem and that we know how to produce everything we need then they will come in," she added. "You have to remember that Palestinians, and even more Jordan, have a severe water problem. Jordan does not have tap water at certain times of the year." According to Prof. Cleo, "For purely egoistic reasons, we should also help the king to supply water, otherwise woe is what his government will do. The politics and diplomacy of gas, water and oil are intertwined and interconnected."More in Walla! NEWS More in Walla! NEWS
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"The water sector is undergoing significant change." Desalination plant at Palmahim Beach (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Palmachim beach pollution. March 2016 (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Mekorot CEO Eli Cohen acknowledged that "the water sector is undergoing significant change, and Mekorot is investing heavily in providing effective water management solutions." He told Walla! NEWS that "during both the saturated and the drought-ridden times, we are working diligently. Sources, as always, are up to the challenges and will continue to fulfill its national commitment with professionalism, responsibility and efficiency. "
By all forecasts, Israel is warming and drying up. But even in a rainy year like this year, which may turn out to be an exception, the numbers on the ground really prove the spoken efficiency of sources, the water authority and other dealers in the field. Among other things, water sources and water authorities are concerned with catching rainwater, so that they are not allowed to flow into the sea just like that. For example, already at the end of the December heavy rainfall system, Mekorot could announce that it had captured 18.1 million cubic meters, about 82% of the total amount of rainfall caught during the entire rainy season last year.
Director of Operations and Maintenance at Mekorot, Danny Sofer, said Mekorot is constantly working to increase water resources and for this purpose already operates 12 floodwater catchment plants around the country for drinking and agriculture purposes. The floodwaters that are caught for home use are undergoing natural filtration in the soil. Natural and even integrated into the national water supply system, sources indicate that the floodwater intended for agriculture is of high quality.More in Walla! NEWS More in Walla! NEWS
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There are two types of floodwater capture plants. Bathers spend at Gopra beach in Kinneret (Photo: Tal Nahshon, Kinneret Authority)
Gopra beach in Kinneret on September 30, 2019 (Photo: Tal Nahshon, Kinneret Authority, official website)
During the same period last year, in the "Sycamore" reservoir for drinking water in the south of the country, no floodwater was caught at all due to the paucity of rains. This year, more than 6 million cubic meters of floodwater has been seized for domestic and agricultural use. After a laboratory test that found that their quality met the standards, the floodwater was transferred to the aquifer for natural filtration. The company says that later on, the water will be produced from local drills, according to needs and guidelines.
In the north of the country, approximately 4 million meters of floodwater were seized in the Kfar Baruch reservoir to fill the reservoirs of the Kishon community. This amounts to 1.5 times as much as 2.7 million cubic meters of floodwater seized during the same period last year. The Nahal Menashe plant, which collects flood water from alligator streams, Ada, Barkan and shifts, absorbed about 5.4 million meters of flood water in the recent rainfall system.
Sources include two types of floodwater capture plants across the country, designed for both home and agriculture consumption. The captured water in the drinking-water factories is transferred to laboratory tests. Once found suitable, they are submerged into natural filtration and subsequently pumped, through drilling, and supplied for domestic consumption through the national water system. These factories include concrete canals, water lines, a trench, dams, sedimentation and seepage fields. The introduction of floodwater into the aquifer enriches the amount and quality of groundwater. The seepage through the soil layers is parallel to the filtration and purification process. "The return of water is very important," explained Professor Cliott. "This aquifer is very dirty because before they met with the factories in its area on the ground, they were very polluted."
Water flows from the center of the country to the Sea of Galilee. Ginosar beach in Kinneret (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Ginosar Beach in Sea of Galilee, September 10, 2018 (Photo: Reuven Castro)
Giora Shaham CEO of Water Authority and Zvika Slutsky Director of Kinneret Authority (Photo: Kinneret Authority)
The reservoirs for catching flood water for farming purposes are located in the north and south of the country. The floodwater mixes with the effluent and reduces the level of salinity. In addition, these waters are cheaper and economically viable for farmers.
But the biggest breakthrough in Israel is the desalination of seawater. This week, the tender for the construction of a new desalination plant in the Western Galilee was launched. This was when the Inter-ministerial Tender Committee for Seawater Desalination, composed of representatives of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy and the Water Authority, released the preliminary sorting documents in a public tender for the construction and operation of a desalination plant. The committee is managed by Itzik Mermelstein, director of the Infrastructure Unit and PPP Projects at the Accountant General's Department of the Treasury. Following the construction of the facility, the seven desalination plants in the country are expected to provide an amount equal to more than 85% of the total household and municipal consumption of potable water per year and possibly even more. Prof. Cliott believes the rate may even reach 95%.
The tender was later published in a government decision of June 2018, which approved a strategic plan to deal with the ongoing drought period that hit the water sector in 2013-2018. One of the steps they have decided is to increase the quantities of desalinated water and to promote a plan to connect the cut off areas, including the Western Galilee, to the national system. This is to increase the reliability of drinking water supply for residents, as well as water for agriculture, nature and tourism in the area.
"Implementation of the plan for dealing with future drought periods"
Accountant General Roni Hezekiah, who reported approval of the statutory plan for the construction of a desalination plant in the Western Galilee after a decade in which the state is working to approve the plan, promised that there will be further implementation of the government's decision to establish the desalination facilities, and the project will be added to a long line of infrastructure projects under these 20 programs. ". Ministry of Energy Director-General Udi Adiri stressed that the construction of the desalination plant in the Western Galilee is "part of the strategic plan for dealing with future drought periods", adding that it "will enable the economy to properly prepare for rising demand and possible future rainfall, which is important news for the Israeli public. ".
The more efficient management of the water sector will increasingly enable water flow in the opposite direction - from the center of the country to the Sea of Galilee. Water Authority director Giora Shaham noted that the new desalination facility will supply water to a region suffering from severe shortages that will only intensify as a result of climate change and, if necessary, could also increase the Sea of Galilee.