Friday, July 31, 2009

Report: Unusually Low Rainfall Last Winter Left Kinneret, Aquifers Thirsty

Zafrir Rinat
31 July

Last winter Lake Kinneret only received about 56 percent of the water it receives in an average rainy season, the Water Authority said in a report released this week.

Precipitation was slightly greater than the winter before, but cumulatively speaking it is the fifth year in a row of less-than-average rainfall.

The Kinneret has dropped more than two meters in the past two years. In addition, the water has become increasingly more saline for the fifth year running, because less low-saline water (rainwater) is coming into the lake. Since the water is used for irrigation, this endangers crops sensitive to high salt concentrations.

The Water Authority said the southern part of the lake is below the dam keeping the water from flowing south into the Jordan River and on to the Dead Sea. Even if the dam were opened, no water would flow southward. The level of the Dead Sea has been dropping at the rate of about 90 centimeters a year.

The heavy rains in February increased last winter's overall precipitation, with some areas experiencing rainfall amounts that are seen only once every fifty years. However, in January Jerusalem had its lowest rainfall since 1895, and in the Kinneret region the rainfall was the lowest since the 1920s.

The Water Authority has minimized the amount of water being pumped from the Kinneret, which means it is forced to make up the difference by pumping from the coastal and mountain aquifers.

The mountain aquifer, where the water is considered to be of high quality, dropped sharply toward the red line, below which this source faces the risk of leakage of saline water. In the central aquifer (a well in the Petah Tikva area) the water level is only 10 centimeters above the red line, Water Authority measurements show. North of that point, at the present rate of pumping, the water level in the mountain aquifer will dip below the red line in a few months.

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