Neviot's water bottling plant in Golan
Neviot's water bottling plant in Golan Israel News Photo: Neviot

Israel's two largest mineral water companies reported that the current drought has affected water quality and that they have temporarily halted production after finding a low amount of contamination.

The Mei Eden and Netivot companies, located near Ein Gedi and in the Golan Heights, emphasized that there is absolutely no health danger from bottles already on the shelf.

However, the test results that the water quality has dropped might indicate that Israelis face a summer of water rationing. The Kinneret, Israel's largest non-underground water reservoir, is at the lowest level since 2001 while demand has risen.

The lake is now only 75 centimeters (30 inches) above the black line, where water authorities may have to halt pumping of water because of ground contamination. The level of the Kinneret has risen only 18 centimeters (7.2 inches) since its low point this winter, one of the driest on record.

February has featured short rainy periods, interrupted by periods of high temperatures rarely seen in the winter. Rain fell in the north and central regions on Monday, and more is expected on Tuesday before warm and dry weather returns on Wednesday and Thursday.

Meteorologists are anxiously following a new winter storm that appears headed for Israel on Friday, packing a powerful punch that may linger at least until Sunday.

The expected rain, and possibly snow in the northern Galilee, will be only a drop in the bucket, and only an unusually wet late February and a wintry March and April, when signs of spring and summer usually appear, will be able to bring the water reserves above the danger point.

The Kinneret usually drops approximately 1.5 meters (60 inches) during the summer, and a drop below the black line could cause irreversible damage to the lake, as well as adversely affect the underground water aquifer system.

The Kinneret currently is a whopping 5.45 meters (18 feet) below the level where dams have to be opened to prevent flooding in the lakeside city of Tiberias. The last time the dams had to be opened was in 1993.

The Kinneret College, located on the southern shore of the Kinneret, is hosting a conference Tuesday on Israel's water situation. One of the scheduled speakers is Australian Ambassador to Israel James Larsen who will discuss policies adopted in Australia to deal with the severe drought.