A senior Israel Water Authority official on Monday said that Israelis better start praying for an exceedingly rainy winter because the nation today stands on the edge of a severe and protracted drought.
Water Authority official Shuli Chen made those remarks to Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper shortly after checking and confirming that the country's main fresh water reservoir, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped below its lower red line.
Chen said that five years ago the Sea of Galilee, known in Israel as Lake Kinneret, had dropped even lower, but only at the end of a very dry summer. This time around, the lake is at its lower red line and summer is only beginning. At this rate, experts expect the Sea of Galilee to reach its "black line" by mid-October, at which point irreversible damage will have been done to the quality of the lake's water.
Already damage is being done to the Sea of Galilee's water quality, former Water Authority chief Dan Zaslavsky told Israel Radio on Tuesday, noting that when the lower red line is reached all water pumping is supposed to stop.
The problem is that if Israel stops pumping water now, the nation will suddenly lose some 30 percent of its fresh water, necessitating draconian rationing policies. Israel is also obligated under its peace treat with Jordan to provide its neighbor with some 50 million cubic meters of water every year. Without the Sea of Galilee, Israel would be unable to meet that commitment.
But if the black line is reached, Israel will be unable to draw any more water from the Sea of Galilee as the national water carrier's pumps will be exposed and no longer under water.
In the face of this dire situation, the Water Authority on Tuesday put forward an emergency plan that restricts the use of water for private gardening and demands that the government accelerate plans to construct additional desalination plants. The plan also calls on the public to voluntarily practice greater water conservation by taking shorter showers, washing cars with buckets of water rather than running hoses, and taking greater care to use less water when washing dishes.
If these measures and the coming winter rains fail to alleviate the problem, Zaslavsky warned that Israelis will begin to experience sporadic water supply to their homes.