Kinneret (file)
Kinneret (file) Flash 90

Sunday's heavy rains throughout the country have left their mark on Israel's main water source: The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The lake began its annual climb yesterday, for the first time in five months.

The height of the Kinneret is the primary standard by which Israel's water supplies are measured. As of this morning, it stands at 212.79 meters below sea level – a half-centimeter higher than the day before. Even the longest journey starts with the first short step, of course, and the Kinneret still has nearly 5 meters – about 15 feet – before it reaches its maximum level.

Each centimeter of Kinneret height represents 1.7 million cubic meters of water – roughly a third of Israel's average domestic and industrial daily needs.

The Kinneret has two official red line levels: The maximum level is 208.8 meters below sea level, at which the Degania dam must be opened to prevent flooding. On the other end of the scale, the Water Authority makes all efforts to prevent the Kinneret from falling below 213 meters below sea level, in order to prevent a deterioration in water quality.

The Kinneret supplies nearly a quarter of Israel's annual water needs, but desalination of ocean water is in the process of surpassing this amount. Four major desalination plants – in Ashkelon, Palmachim, Hadera and Sorek – currently supply a total of 500 million cubic meters of water each year. A fifth plant, in Ashdod, is to supply another 100 million when it is completed, sometime in the middle of next year.

Another 30 smaller desalination plants throughout the country produce a total of some 50 million cubic meters annually.

Water in Israel has typically been delivered, via the National Water Carrier, from the plush north to the arid south. With the growth of the desalination plants along the Mediterranean Coast, great amounts of water now travel from west to east, where they meet up with the National Water Carrier for further distribution.

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