No Water Strike Solution Sighted

Interest in the 6-week-old Water Authority strike is sparse because it doesn't affect the water supply - but the Kinneret level remains unmeasured.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 15:10

Low water level
Low water level
Israel news photo:

Israel’s Water Authority workers are still on strike, going on six weeks now. They do not control the national water supply – this is under the auspices of the Mekorot Water Company – and for this reason their strike has not attracted great national attention. The main resulting damage is that the water levels of the various national aquifers, and especially the largest one – the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), are not being measured.

The strike began on Dec. 2, when the Kinneret was measured at 214.31 meters below sea level. Since then, it has been measured twice, and shown to have risen 25 centimeters by Dec. 26, and another 12 centimeters by January 1, bringing it to 213.94 meters below sea level.

It is assumed to have dropped slightly since then, because of the lack of rain – though rains are expected on Wednesday afternoon, tapering off on Thursday morning.

The Kinneret is thus just less than a meter under the recommended “red line” of 213 meters below sea level.  Though it is about 45 centimeters higher than it was last year at this time, Israel’s water community is still hoping that the remaining weeks of the winter season will raise the level enough so that the dry summer season will not drag it down towards the 215-meter “black line” level. At this mark, water is no longer permitted to be drawn from the Kinneret.

The Water Authority workers are demanding a say in the unilateral structural changes being made in the Authority, as well as a new comprehensive agreement that will include a pay raise. In the meantime, they are not supervising water consumption or desalination, nor are they issuing licenses to localities.

In sympathy with the striking employees, various government offices have been taking turns in striking for half a day. Among them are the Lands Registrar offices, Customs, Income Tax, Foreign Ministry, Rabbinical Court and the Ministry of Transportation’s License Bureau.

In another water-labor issue, Mekorot workers have threatened to disconnect two desalination plants from the national water system. This, in response to a Finance Ministry threat to cancel its agreement for the building and operation of the Ashdod desalination plant unless Mekorot accepts the price of water that has been set for it.

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