by Andrew Friedman
Water officials say the country has received between 30 and 50 millimeters of rainfall in the past two days. But they added that the current storm did little to correct the below-average annual rainfall, or to reverse the effects of five years of drought conditions.
“The north of the country got about 30 millimeters,” Dr. Amir Givati, the head of the Department of Hydrometeorology, responsible for monitoring surface water at the Israel Water Authority, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on Monday (Dec 25). “Judea and Samaria got about 50 millimeters.
“But it only rained two days in December and from the start of the rainy season in October we’ve only had about 40 percent of our average rainfall. Not only that, but the weather models stretching into January are also showing lower-than-average rainfall. So the current storm is certainly welcome, but we are a long, long way from emerging from a very severe drought,” Givati said.
Monday’s storm came a day after Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Yuval Steinitz toured the Sea of Galilee, known in Hebrew as Lake Kinneret, to survey damage left by the drought, currently in its fifth consecutive year.
Steinitz said his office would draft a national emergency water plan in the coming weeks in order to bolster Israel’s water sector and to “save” the Kinneret. Steinitz called on the government to invest in a large-scale desalination plant north of Haifa in order to channel desalinated water to the lake, Israel’s largest source of freshwater.
The current crisis is the most severe in more than a decade. Givati said the Kinneret has stood at the upper red line, which indicates that the lake is at full capacity with a water level of 208.40 meters below sea level, since April, 2004; but as of Monday (Dec. 25), the water level in the lake stood at 214.38 meters below sea level.
The current water level is just 20 millimeters above the so-called black line, and just 49 millimeters above the lowest point ever measured in the Kinneret.
With an expedited effort, Steinitz said Israel could begin funnelling natural sea water to the Kinneret within 18 months to two years, but questions remain about the ecological impact of introducing salt water into the fresh water lake. Bringing desalinated sea water to the Kinneret would take years, not least because there is no desalination plant in the north of the country.
In addition to Steinitz’s plan to introduce a national emergency water plan, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said that his office would hold a prayer service for rain at the Western Wall on Thursday, which traditional Jews mark as the Tenth of Tevet fast day. While Steinitz did not address Ariel’s call for public prayers, he did say the country must not wait for Divine aid to address the drought.
“We are praying for rain, but we must prepare for more drought,” Steinitz told the Hebrew-language Walla! News news outlet.