12/06/2011 22:54

The Water Authority institutes a temporary ban on irrigating public and private gardens.
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The Water Authority has instituted a temporary ban on public and private garden irrigation, which it says will be key to water conservation efforts in an era of rapid water loss and drought.

The four-month prohibition – which began on December 1 and will last through April 1 – has occurred annually since around 2001 and forbids all types of garden-watering, except in areas that fall between the southern tip of Israel and a borderline called the “minority rains line.”

According to a map on the Water Authority website, this line begins at Israel’s western border just north of the Sufa border crossing, and heads eastward north of Tze’elim, Hatzerim, Beersheba, Kasif and Arad. It then wraps around northward along the western coast of the Dead Sea and ending right below Yafit before hitting Jordan, but includes Tomer, Na’omi, Nahal Elisha, Vered Yeriho, Almog, Kalya, Mitzpe Shalem and Ein Gedi within its minority precipitation – and therefore acceptable-to-irrigate – bounds.

“From that line toward the North you must not water at all because it’s winter – and when there is winter, there is rain,” Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, noting that the rule applies to gardens only, not potted plants inside the home.

In addition to continuing to institute this ordination, the Water Authority has provided “10 useful tips for saving water” during the months of April through November, when irrigating gardens is once again permitted. These guidelines include watering plants with sprinklers before 6 a.m., when there is no breeze; raising plants that are known to be frugal with water; allocating the amount of water necessary for irrigation according to the weather; equipping the garden with a computerized irrigation monitor; and covering the ground with copious amounts of soil to prevent dehydration.

In addition, the Water Authority suggests dividing gardens into sections according to watering needs; increasing the space between plants to strengthen their individual absorption; mowing lawns frequently; pruning unnecessary landscape; and using compost.

“Private gardens and public lawns are green lungs for all of us,” the authority guidelines say.

This year’s irrigation ban comes at a time when both Dead Sea and Kinneret water levels are incredibly low. As of December 1, the Dead Sea’s water level was measured at 425.36 meters below sea level, a drop in 17 centimeters for the month – following drops of 11 and 10 centimeters in October and September, respectively.

“Seventeen is quite drastic,” Schor said. “It was a very hot November.”

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, the Kinneret sat at 213.69 meters below sea level, still 69 centimeters below the body of water’s bottom red line. During this November’s rainy week, the Kinneret rose by one centimeter, two weekends ago it dropped by half a centimeter, and last weekend, by a full centimeter, according to Schor.

“The last seven years of drought left our main sources of water with a loss of 1.5 billion cubic meters of water,” he said. “Therefore, we need a lot of rain and to continue conserving.”