The level of Lake Kinneret has risen by 2.80 meters (9.1 feet) this past winter, its highest annual increase in five years. Officials anticipate the water levels will keep rising by 0.5 to 1.0 meters in the coming months.
Despite this improvement, experts are sticking to pessimistic predictions that rainfall will decline in the region in coming years due to climate change, and that the Kinneret will ultimately reflect a norm of lower water levels.
The rate of rising water levels increased at the end of last week, after the lake’s catchment basin received up to 3.5 inches of rain. This highly unusual occurrence for this time of year is attributed to the earth having been too soaked to absorb the latest precipitation, sending much of the water flowing into nearby streams which run into the lake.
According to the Water Authority, the lake’s water level rose by 10 inches since Saturday. The amount of water added to the lake since the beginning of the hydrological year (October) is 400 million cubic meters, greater than the multi-year average of 280 million. The figure accounts for evaporation and water pumped out of the lake for various purposes.
Data collected by the Water Authority and Meteorological Service reflect that last month was the rainiest March since 2003, and the fourth consecutive month in which rainfall has exceeded the multi-year average, something which has not happened since 1992. Precipitation in the Kinneret catchment basin is at 175 percent the seasonal average.
The Water Authority estimates that streams and melting snow (which contributes 10 percent of the water reaching the lake) will ultimately add 50 to 100 centimeters to the lake’s water level. The rise will be impacted by the amount of water pumped into the national water carrier system. Such pumping nearly ground to a halt in recent years due to dropping water levels.
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The rising waters have also had some positive side effects, slowing the lake’s salinization process which had been endangering the water quality. More water has also been available for farming. More significantly, there is more time to prepare for drier winters anticipated down the line when water may have to be pumped into the Kinneret from central Israel. Flora and fauna near the Kinneret have also had the benefit of making a recovery after years of drought.
“It was a very rainy winter in the eastern Mediterranean basin, in contrast to a drier one in Western Europe,” said Dr. Amir Givati, a former senior official at the Hydrological Service, currently at ClimaCell.
“You can’t draw conclusions from one good year. Statistically, there are greater chances that next year will be a dry one, since that is the typical cycle in Israel, with peak years followed by low-precipitation ones,” Givati said.
“One must continue preparing infrastructure for developing more sources of water, as well as saving water. Agriculture must also be adapted to drought years. The long-term trend of climate change shows that the region will find it increasingly difficult to meet its needs,” he said.