The Knesset Interior Committee held a session on Israel's looming water crisis, and its members heard some dire warnings. Uri Shani, the Director of the Water Authority, told the MKs, "I have no doubt that the level of the Kinneret will drop this coming July below the red line, and water will not be able to be drawn."
The Kinneret, or the Sea of Galilee, is Israel's largest reservoir, and its height is a mirror of Israel's water supply. If, because of heavy rains and water streaming into it from the northern mountains, it climbs to a height of 208.8 meters below sea level, its dams must be opened to prevent Tiberias and Ein Gev from being flooded. This last occurred some 17 years ago.
The problems, however, usually occur in the opposite direction. The Kinneret's level currently stands at only some 212 meters below sea level - and if it drops much further, the water will be unsafe for drawing. The official level as recorded on Monday was 212.06 meters below sea level, only two centimeters higher than last week. This can be compared to rainy years such as 2003, when rains and runoff helped the Kinneret rise an average of five centimeters each day during the month of March.
Shani, who served as ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Bureau Director several years ago, told the Committee that the reasons for the water crisis include the shift of rain concentrations to southern Israel, and the agricultural changeover from field crops to more water-needy orchards.
March signals the beginning of the end of Israel's rainy season, which this year has produced only some 75% of an average year's rainfall.
Since Israel transferred municipal sovereignty over most of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority some ten years ago, some underground water reservoirs which are part of the mountain aquifer have become unfit for drinking, due to overdrawing of water by local Arabs.