Israel 'Flips' Fresh Kinneret Water for Desalinated Jordan Water

Hundreds of people in Israel have signed a petition against a transfer of some 50 million cubic meters of Kinneret water to Jordan.

Yaakov Levi,

Flash 90

Hundreds of people in Israel have signed a petition against an impending transfer of some 50 million cubic meters of water to Jordan. The transfer, set to occur in the coming days, will be an “environmental tragedy,” according to the petition, which has been signed by farmers, officials of Israel's national parks, environmental group leaders, and ordinary citizens.

Israel will sell Jordan the fresh water, and in return has committed to buy back desalinated water from Jordan, from a facility that is under construction in Aqaba. The water will be drawn from the Kinneret, the Israeli Sea of Galilee that supplies much of the country's fresh water. The objective of the arrangement is to help Jordan develop agriculture in currently arid parts of northern Jordan. The Jordanian water, meanwhile, will be piped into Israel's Negev, providing more water for farmers in an area Israel is trying to develop agriculturally.

The deal is to go forward despite a petition that was submitted to the High Court in February by several kibbutzim in the area of the northern Jordan River, who fought against the construction of a large pipe from the Kinneret that will deliver the water to Jordan via their fields.

Under pressure from the government, the kibbutzim decided to withdraw their petition, but the cause against the deal has now been taken up by environmental groups, which believe that the removal of water from the Kinneret will further reduce the lake's water level, endangering the lake's ecosystem.