Sea of Galilee Basin Water Shortage Hurts Jordan Tributaries

The lack of rain has not been registered only at Lake Kinneret, but has also been felt in the Dead Sea region.

Man walks with his child amid water shortage in the Sea of Galilee basin. 2017
Gil Eliahu

A water shortage in the Kinneret basin as a result of the paltry rainfall is intensifying and has begun to hurt the strength of flow through the Jordan River tributaries.

The latest month report of the Hydrological Service shows a considerably reduced flow from these northern streams into the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret, with a cumulative water deficit of 115 million cubic meters compared to the average yearly figure.

Precipitation in the area of the Kinneret basin last month was only a tenth of the multiyear average for February, one of Israel’s three main rainy months. At some measuring stations the quantity of rain measured was the lowest for February in 90 years.

In the center and coastal region the situation was better, but even there precipitation was only 50 to 60 percent of the multiyear average. The results of the rain shortage can be seen in the Dan stream, one of the Jordan River tributaries, which gets its water from the country’s largest concentration of springs.

The flow in this stream was measured at 5.43 cubic meters per second, while the average flow at this time of year should be 9 cubic meters per second. The Banias stream is also flowing at about half its average rate. The Dan and the Banias are the two major Jordan River tributaries, and as a result there has been a drop in the flow of the river as well, from 15 cubic meters per second at the beginning of February to only 10 cubic meters at the end of the month.

The level of Lake Kinneret rose last month only because of the regular flow of the streams; there was no extra flow due to rain. The amount of water added to the lake was less than half the multiyear average for February. The lake’s water level remained below the lower red line at the end of February for the first time in a decade. Over the past four years, the accumulated water deficit (the amount of water not added to the lake compared to the multiyear average) is some 1 billion cubic meters.

During the next few weeks, the Water Authority is meant to decide how much can be pumped from the lake into the National Carrier. It will presumably have to allot only a small amount of water so as not to make the lake’s water level even worse.

The lack of rain has also been felt in the Dead Sea region. The sea has been steadily shrinking but the pace is more moderate in years when there’s above-average rainfall.

In February, however, the sea’s level dropped by six centimeters, three times the drop in February 2016.