11/25/2010 20:24

November set to be worst ever for Kinneret, forecasters predict dry spell to continue into December; cabinet to discuss emergency water plan.

With no significant rainfall thus far, the dire predictions about this winter have become a reality, the Water Authority said on Thursday.

With November nearing its end, Lake Kinneret will likely receive the least water since records started being kept in 1927.

No rain, the lack of humidity, and warm temperatures have increased the evaporation of the lake such that it is losing about half a centimeter a day. It is already a meter below the bottom red line. The lake is expected to break the record set in 2001 for least amount of drinking water available in the month of November.

After the driest November in the North in 48 years, it doesn’t look like the situation will be getting any better next month, the Water Authority said. Its forecasters fear the dry spell will continue into December and further lower the water levels in the aquifers and springs, in addition to Lake Kinneret’s.

The cabinet is set to discuss an emergency water plan on Sunday to take the country through the next two years, but after seven years of little rain, the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

Indeed, things will only begin to improve, the Water Authority believes, in 2013, when the desalination plants are producing 600 million cubic meters of water a year. While that amount won’t erase the deficit caused by seven or maybe even nine straight dry years, it is believed that it will eventually enable the situation to stabilize. It should provide a buffer so the natural reservoirs can gradually replenish themselves.

The situation would be considerably worse now if three desalination plants – in Hadera, Ashkelon and Palmahim – weren’t already producing 300 million cu.m. of fresh water a year. Ashdod’s is set to open in 2012 and Sorek’s in 2013.

Residential water use totals between 600 million cu.m. and 700 million cu.m. a year. Industrial use is at about 180 million cu.m. and agricultural use is under 350 million cu.m.

Water Authority head Prof. Uri Shani and Mekorot national water company CEO Ido Rosilio told The Jerusalem Post this week that there were no radically new solutions to be proposed in the emergency plan. For instance, importing water is currently considered economically unfeasible. Rather, a package of known solutions would be proposed.

Israel has been amazingly resourceful at ensuring that water comes out of the taps for all residents at all times, Shani said on Monday, at the launch of the Knesset Lobby to Ensure Water for Israel. Israel’s neighbors, for instance, do not have water all the time. In Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, he said, water sometimes comes out of the pipes only once a week.

Ensuring the water keeps flowing is getting harder and harder as the rains continue to stay away. However, the Water Authority will cut back allotments to agriculture before allowing any disruptions in the flow to households. So while some fruits and vegetables might not appear in their normal quantities next year, the chances of the water running dry are slim.

Nevertheless, the Water Authority has increasingly turned to the residential sector as having the greatest potential for conservation. As water-conscious as Israelis have become in recent years – consumption has dropped about 18 percent – there is room for more cuts, according to the authority.

Regarding long-term trends, geological records from the Dead Sea show the area has experienced dry spells lasting hundreds of years, Dead Sea expert Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham told the Post last week, so the natural situation might not resolve itself for a very long time.