After Drought, Israel Faces Water Surplus

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff

Earlier this year, following a winter of good rainfall, Israel's Water Authority declared that the crippling seven-year drought had come to an end. Nevertheless, officials continued to caution water conservation. Now, it would appear Israel might have too much water.

With another winter of predicted average-to-good rainfall ahead, Water Authority officials believe the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) could overfill.

So concerned are they by this possibility that two weeks ago the Water Authority tested the Degania Dam that sends water from the Kinneret into the Jordan River. The dam had not been opened since the winter of 1992, when Israel received nearly double the average annual rainfall.

While this might sound more like a blessing than a problem, government officials are concerned about what it will mean for the newly opened desalination plants along Israel's Mediterranean coast.

In short, the plants will be asked to produce less water this year than they are able to provide. And that means smaller profits. All of this was built into the state's contracts with the desalination plants, but that doesn't mean everyone is happy with the situation.

Regardless, Water Authority officials told Israel's Globes newspaper that the desalination plants were established as a kind of fail-safe to keep Israel from drying up in future droughts. And, according to experts, an even more severe drought than the previous is expected to hit the region in 2015, or shortly thereafter.

"Even if the plants don’t work at full capacity in the coming year, we will soon definitely need their output," said Water Authority officials. "The Israeli economy has a structural water shortage, and one rainy year does create a new reality."

In the meantime, the Israeli taxpayers will pay the desalination plants an estimated 160 million shekels ($45 million dollars) for clean water not produced.

As difficult as that prospect might sound, "it is cheaper to pump water from natural sources than to buy water from the desalination plants at full rates," concluded the Water Authority.

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