Israel's Sea of Galilee at Lowest Level in 17 Years

The water level in Israel's only freshwater lake fell further in November, approaching an all-time low

The Sea of Galilee near the end of October 2018.
Gil Eliahu

The water level in Israel's only freshwater lake fell further in November, approaching an all-time low

The water level in the Sea of Galilee has receded to its lowest point in 17 years, hydrologists warn. In October the water level in the lake fell another 19 centimeters, and has continued to recede in November, says the Water Authority’s Hydrological Service.

By October's end the water level was 162 centimeters (5 feet 4 inches) below the “red line”, the level below which pumping from the lake is forbidden.

Rainfall in October actually passed the long-term average for the month. In fact, in Israel's north, rain last month was double the multiyear average. But the rain did not suffice to reverse the decline in the water level of the lake itself. 

That level fell by 19 centimeters in October. The inflow into the lake in October was 20 million cubic meters less than the amount of water that evaporated, which is the worst water balance recorded in October since measurements of water volumes in the lake began.

Also, as the water level recedes, the lake’s salinity has increased, to its highest level in 50 years.

Also, in Israel's south, the level of the Dead Sea continued to decline, dropping 10 centimeters in October. Over the last 20 years, the level of the Dead Sea has dropped by 20 meters.

Last month’s rainfall slightly raised the level of the Western Mountain Aquifer, the largest source of groundwater in Israel.

The receding water levels in the two seas are part of wider trends of desertification in the region. Climate change is hitting the Mediterranean basin countries harder than most other region. The last 30 years have been the hottest and driest in recorded Israeli history, and the climate change is killing Israel's forests. AAridity is a problem in and of itself but tree mortality is exacerbated by forest fires and pests that have been thriving in the warmer weather.