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The Mekorot water company yesterday began a special program for testing water feeding into Lake Kinneret in underground springs. Mekorot wants to see if the springwater can be desalinated and used in the future.

"Over the next few months we'll be checking [the springs'] potential before deciding on piping the water into the saltwater carrier," said Mekorot engineer Israel Moskovitz.

Moskovitz was referring to a carrier system built around 40 years ago, designed to decrease the amount of chlorides in water by preventing saltwater from reaching the lake.

The saltwater carrier is 22 kilometers long, running along the lake's western shore. The system consists mostly of open-air canals.

Over the years, the authorities began using the carrier to transport raw sewage from nearby towns and villages, to prevent it from reaching the Kinneret. The untreated waste is pumped into the Jordan River along with the salty springwater.

A YMCA hostel at the lake attacked Mekorot's decision, saying the construction will ruin the view and damage the lake's ecosystem.

"Nature had been moving in a set course for thousands of years. Fish would come to the springs, and so would birds. The Kinneret is more than just a water reservoir, it's nature and it's a religious site. Why alter that?" a source at the hostel said.

Fishermen in Tiberias also oppose the project, saying that according to local lore, the salty waters of the underwater springs attract sick fish that come to the area to heal.

"That's the fish clinic," said Yaakov Fadida, chairman of a Tiberias fishermen's organization. "Every sick fish that comes to the springs is cured, it's well known. I hope it won't damage us."

Mekorot said the installation was placed outside the hostel's property, and that once the water level in the lake rises, nothing unseemly will be visible from the shore.