The Water Authority will draw up a plan to pump water back to springs and wells in an effort to prevent the drying up of reservoirs and waters in national parks.

The authority's policy-making council has decided that 3 million cubic meters of water will be added to the 15 million cubic meters already pumped back to nature annually - and some springs will be replenished, most of these in the Galilee and the Golan Heights.

The decision will force the authority to find alternatives for some consumers, such as farmers. In some cases farmers will receive water from nearby wells, in others the water may flow from springs through reservoirs and only then be used for agriculture.

In the past few years the Water Authority has had to come to the aid of national parks and streams that were drying up after most of their water sources were used before they reached them, or the groundwater stopped flowing during the several relatively dry years.

The clean part of the Yarkon River, for example, receives water from a national water company pipe, as does the Ein Afek Nature Reserve. New drilling will take place near the Betzet Stream, even though the authorities fear that this might dry up the area further.

In other places, such as the David Stream near Ein Gedi, the nearby kibbutz draws its water only after it has flowed down the stream. In the Hula Valley in the north, the authority pumps water to the reservoir from nearby wells, instead of lower-quality water from fish ponds.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which has repeatedly criticized the Water Authority for not enlarging the quotas pumped back to nature, was quick to welcome the recent decision.

It said, however, that "there are still regions such as the Beit She'an Valley and the Harod Valley were well water is used up instead of it flowing to nature. We need a transparent public plan that lists all the wells whose water will be allowed to flow naturally. The plan must include timetables and limits on drilling for groundwater from areas surrounding wells."