Israel Facing Worst Water Crisis in 80 Years

The Water Authority Director announced Tuesday morning that Israel's water supply faces "the worst crisis... since they started keeping records."

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

Looking for water? The National Water Carrier
Looking for water? The National Water Carrier
(Photo: Josh Shamsi)

Israel Water Authority Director Uri Shani announced Tuesday morning that Israel's water supply faces "the worst crisis in 80 years, since they started keeping records."

Major sources of drinking water in Israel, including Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the mountain aquifer, and the coastal aquifer, are
Lake Kinneret and the mountain aquifer are... below their red lines.
all below their red lines, Shani said at a special press conference in Tel Aviv. The coastal aquifer has fallen below the black line, indicating it could suffer rapid and possibly irreversible damage. Shani predicted that the Kinneret itself could fall below its black line by December 2008.

The Kinneret's red line - below which it is not recommended to draw water from the northern lake - is at 213 meters below sea level. Speaking with Israel National News earlier this month, a water economy official explained: "You must understand that the red line is merely a recommendation. The government definitely tries to make sure not to reach that level, but it really has no choice but to continue drawing water even beyond the 213 mark." However, he added, "in the past few years, the government has designated a black line, at 215 meters below sea level, and that is something that truly cannot be breached."

According to Director Shani, "Israel's water needs have been met by borrowing on the future."

To ameliorate the crisis, the Israel Water Authority has authorized the following emergency measures: water will be pumped from the sources of the Kinneret (water which should have reached the Kinneret in 2010); desalination plants will increase output; and polluted wells will be purified. Water use for gardening will also be limited.

The price of water is expected to nearly double, from 3.90 NIS per cubic meter to 7.40 NIS, for some uses.  Home consumption will rise by tens of percent. Income from the price hike,  and a government investment of one billion shekels, will be used over the next five years for water infrastructure, desalination and sewage treatment for agriculture, according to the Water Authority.

The Water Authority's announcement Tuesday follows a warning Shani issued in March at a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee. Shani told the MKs at the time: "I have no doubt that the level of the Kinneret will drop this coming July below the red line," ultimately leading to a situation in which "water will not be able to be drawn."