Israel Takes Emergency Steps to Counter Critically Low Water Level in Lake Kinneret

Sea of Galilee only 4 centimeters above lower red line due to lack of rainfall in northern Israel; lake also suffers high levels of salinity, which is also to be addressed

Lake Kinneret in northern Israel, April 2017.
Gil Eliahu

Israel is set to initiate an emergency plan to pump water from the national water system into Lake Kinneret, due to its critically low water level.

The Water Authority has also launched a plan to reduce salinity in the lake, which is damaging water quality.

The authority’s Lake Kinneret specialist, Dr. Doron Merkel, announced the steps last Thursday.

According to the authority’s hydrological service, the lake is now only 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) above the lower red line, even before the summer dry season starts. If the level falls below this line, the lake’s water pumps cannot operate.

The amount of water being added to the lake (less the water that evaporates) has declined from an annual average of 500 million cubic meters four decades ago to 300 million cubic meters of water over the last decade. In recent years, the level has declined even below that.

According to Merkel, the decline is due mainly to a significant drop in rainfall.

The lower the lake’s water level, the more saline it becomes – because one source of water is saline springs on the lake’s edges.

Assuming that the amount of water in the lake will not increase in the future, and if no action is taken to reduce the salt levels, it might become impossible to use the lake water for agriculture or drinking purposes.

Conditions will also spur the growth of algae, which compromise water quality.

To combat the problem, action is now being taken to reduce the lake’s salinity by connecting another of its saline springs to a pipeline that will channel saline water away from the lake. “Every year we remove 20,000 tons of salt from the lake,” said Merkel. “Connecting another saline spring to the system will allow for the removal of 15,000 extra tons.”

The Water Authority is also populating the lake with fish that feed on the algae and help balance the ecosystem.

The authority has also launched a plan to augment the lake’s water by connecting it to a pipeline from the large Eshkol Reservoir, in the Lower Galilee. But because this plan will not be viable for a number of years, it was decided recently to initiate the emergency plan to pump water from the Eshkol Reservoir via a shorter pipeline to the Tzalmon Reservoir, west of Lake Kinneret. From there, 50,000 cubic meters of water would be channeled directly to the lake.

“It’s mainly desalinated water that reaches the Eshkol Reservoir. Scientists from the Kinneret Research Laboratory are now checking the implications of channeling such a quantity of water, mostly desalinated, to the lake,” added Merkel.