'Kinneret water flow worst ever'

Natural water state continues deterioration despite increased desalination, reveals Knesset debate on natural water reservoir preservation.

Mordechai Sones ,

Sun setting on the Kinneret?
Sun setting on the Kinneret?

The Science and Technology Committee held a discussion on "Drought in Israel - Scientific and Technological Measures to Resolve it", marking International Environment Day.

The chairman of the committee, MK Uri Maklev (UTJ), said at the start of the discussion, "There is a need for practical steps, strengthening and pushing in the field ... The feeling is that of complacency regarding drought and climate in Israel. People connect drought with 'will be water or not', and because the question comes up less because there's desalination, they're satisfied and indifferent. The public is not sufficiently aware that desalination has many environmental implications and to the economy, and that the water is also of less quality."

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said, "This is an important and central issue in our environmental struggle. Droughts will be much more common and coping with them will be part of our routine. It is true that desalination provides a certain answer, but it also has many disadvantages. It can not be a screen behind which we continue to neglect our natural water economy. In addition to drought, it is not only about drinking water for a person, but also for nature and our natural periphery that in many places are drying up. The country is undergoing dangerous and sad desertification."

MK Yael Cohen Paran ("Zionist Camp") added, "The fact that people look at the water here only from their own here-and-now perspective and not years ahead is one of our problems. The issue is not on the public agenda. Soon the Kinneret will not be there, there will be no Banias or Yarden. We are talking about strengthening the periphery while our economic base is falling out from under our feet."

Dr. Sinaia Netanyahu, a senior scientist at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said "Drought affects the water economy as a whole. Israel in response to the drought has built the best monitored and most efficient desalination possible, yet there are risks - operational, sea pollution, cyber. Along with desalination, it is also necessary to act in the natural water and groundwater sectors. There are also environmental implications to desalination that we are investigating."

Yoav Levi, of the Meteorological Service, said, "According to the amount of rain accumulated over the last decade, we are in the worst situation since 1921. Although it is impossible to know what will happen in a specific year, it seems that by the end of the century we will have less rain than we have today."

Dr. Amir Givati of the Water Authority added, "Our job is to measure the amount of water on the ground. We recognize that in the past four years the situation has been the most difficult ever in terms of water flow to the Sea of Galilee, the north, and the Western Galilee. The impact has been dramatic on streams and dehydrating springs. It is necessary to fortify the area with additional water. In recent years more water evaporates in the sun than what flows in the Jordan. These are things we have never experienced. If until a few years ago we were pumping 400 million cubic meters from the Sea of Galilee today we are pumping 30 million and it is still in retreat."

Ron Shaefer notes that the Kinneret is continually deficient 200 million cubic metres, precisely the amount that Israel gives gratis to Jordan each year as part of the Oslo agreements.