Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)Israel news photo

The level of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), Israel’s largest water source, topped the “red line” over the past few days, and now stands at 212.95 meters below sea level. It surpassed the government-mandated "red line" of -213 meters over the weekend as a result of the heavy rains of last week.

The Kinneret gained 28 centimeters, or nearly a foot, over the past week; it has picked up a total of 1.17 meters (over 46 inches) so far this winter. It reached its lowest point of this season on Dec. 11, 2010, when it descended to 214.12 meters below sea level.

Though the rainy season has not yet ended, no one is expecting the Kinneret level to climb anywhere near -208.8, at which point the seashore city of Tiberias faces flooding and the dam gates of the lake are therefore opened.

The lowest the Kinneret has ever been in modern times occurred on Nov. 29, 2001, when it hit -214.87.  

The sea bed of the Kinneret contains salty springs that do not sprout forth because of the heavy water pressure above. A low water level, however, lowers the water pressure that is exerted, causing concern that salty water would enter the Kinneret from below, thus endangering Israel’s only sweet water source. In addition, the supply of fish in the Kinneret has been threatened in recent years; as of this past January, fishing in the Kinneret has been banned until further notice. 

The Kinneret, which is 47 meters deep at its deepest, is fed by rainwater from various streams in the Galilee and Golan, such as the Jordan River, Nahal Meshushim, Nahal Amud, Nahal El-Al, and Nahal Yehudiya, which are often augmented by melted snow from the Hermon.