Rainfall Hits High After Five-year Drought, Raising Level of Sea of Galilee

The level of the Sea of Galilee, which has suffered from years of drought, has risen about 2 meters so far this rainy season

Water rushing through the Bazelet Stream in the Golan Heights earlier this winter.
Gil Eliahu

Following a five-year drought, particularly in the north, rainfall this year has topped multi-year averages in most of the country, improving the state of Israel’s underground aquifers and boosting the level of the Sea of Galilee, the country’s only major fresh body of water, by about two meters (6.5 feet) since October. Despite the rain, it was only at the end of February that the level of the lake rose above the red line, below which the pumping of water is supposed to stop. 

With the rainy season not quite over, the rainfall in the north and center of the country this year has already surpassed the average for the entire season, including major portions of Israel that have already seen 110 to 120 percent of their average rainfall. As a general rule, 80 to 85 percent of rainfall in an annual rainy season falls by the end of February, so more rain can be expected in March and April.

Misgav Dov near Gedera, south of Tel Aviv, has recorded 761 millimeters (30 inches) of rain. Yodfat in the Galilee has already had 834 millimeters, 133 percent of the seasonal average, while Kibbutz Nir Eliahu in the Sharon region near Kfar Sava, has recorded 136 percent of the average for the entire seasons. Further south, however, rainfall has been less than average.

Despite the downpours in the Judean Hills in the Jerusalem area, precipitation for the year has still not hit the multiyear average, although it is close. The southern Judean Hills and southern coastal lowlands have seen about 80 to 85 percent of their annual average. In the Negev, rainfall has been just 50 to 70 percent of the average for the year, although precipitation in the southern Negev and Arava have surpassed the annual average.

The Sea of Galilee, which has risen nearly 2 meters since the beginning of the rainy season.
Gil Eliahu

Last month, the Sea of Galilee rose by 71 centimeters, bringing the amount of water added to the lake, after accounting for evaporation, to 115 million cubic meters. There has also been a significant rise in the past month in underground aquifers. The southern portion of the Mountain Aquifer, the country’s largest, saw a 30 centimeter increase while the northern portion recorded a 47 centimeter rise.

With the improvement in the rainfall picture, the head of the Water Authority has decided to increase water allocations to farmers by 47 million cubic meters. Eighteen million of that is for farmers around the Sea of Galilee. In recent years, environmental groups and some experts have said that agricultural water allocations provided to agriculture around the lake have curbed water supplies to the area’s streams and springs.