New Dam Planned as Kinneret Water Level Drops

Just how dire the state of Lake Kinneret is may be gleaned from the decision reached in recent days by the Mekorot water corporation to build a new dam at the point where the Jordan River emerges from the lake. Mekorot is worried that toward the end of the summer, the Kinneret's level will be so low that water will not reach the pumps stationed near the Deganya dam, leaving consumers in the area high and dry.

The pumps in question are big, and capable of drawing up to 5,000 cubic meters per hour. The water is intended for some of the Jordan Valley communities, and nearly 50 million cubic meters of it are transferred to Jordan under the peace treaty with Israel. Some water is drawn in the winter from the Yarmuk River, "stored" in Lake Kinneret, and returned to the Jordanians during the summer.

According to Rafi Noy, northern district director at Mekorot, "in order to enable continued pumping, we will erect a dirt embankment east of the Deganya dam, where the Jordan exits the Kinneret, beneath Kibbutz Deganya Alef. We will thereby create a sort of reservoir between the two dams, and will draw water from the Kinneret into that." That will make it possible to artificially raise the water level inside the reservoir, so that it is higher than the lake itself. The dirt embankment will keep the waters of the Jordan from turning back.

Noy said a similar situation existed in 2001, when the Kinneret's level was very low, and this solution was introduced then for the first time. There still remain special compartments installed seven years ago for the pumps, which will be reinstalled while the dirt embankment goes up.

"The state of the water economy is not ordinary, so we must resort to extraordinary measures," Noy said of Mekorot's decision.

A solution will have to be found for the fishermen and police who operate their boats out of docks stationed along the section that will be trapped between the two dams. According to Noy, "the police and the fishermen will leave, and docking areas will be built for them."

When the water level was deliberately raised for the pumps last time around, the fishermen of Tiberias protested the move. The dirt embankment will block the dock they have departed from for many years, one considered especially good both because it is protected and easily accessible to fishing trawls, and because it is close to mullet hatcheries.