Re-diversion of water, law amendment and desalination operations are having major effect.
By Zafrir Rinat | Dec. 22, 2013

The water flowing through Israel’s nature sites has increased tenfold over the past decade, and it’s expected to continue increasing due to new arrangements for supplying water to agriculture and the growing use of desalinated water.

At a conference in Tel Aviv last week on river rehabilitation, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Ministry, Nissim Keshet of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority presented updated data on the water flow in nature sites, which showed the dramatic improvement.

The change is especially welcome after many years in which the water in streams and wellsprings was being diverted for human consumption, leaving little for nature sites. During the years of drought, the situation got even worse and some reserves were on the verge of drying up.

Following pressure from the INPA and other environmental organizations (including the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel), 10 years ago an amendment was made to the Water Law, defining nature as a water “consumer” whose needs had to be met. This created a statutory basis for protecting natural water flow.

As a result, the “allotment” to nature was increased by the Water Authority from 10 million cubic meters per year to 50 million cubic meters annually.

Keshet noted, however, that part of the increase in water flow was the result of water being piped into the streams.

“We want special allotments through pipelines to be zero,” said Keshet. “Our approach is that we must allow all the water to be released into nature immediately. Only in areas where that isn’t possible – such as the Ayun stream in the Galilee – should water be piped in from another site.”

Overall, the rate of water released into nature beyond the special allocations has reached more than 40 million cubic meters per year.

Over the next two years, it’s expected to increase by another 50 million cubic meters by increasing the release of springwater into the Kishon River and water from Lake Kinneret into the southern Jordan River.

“The release of water into nature was made possible in part thanks to policies that enable the water to flow through the nature reserves, after which it is pumped from the slopes and used for irrigation,” explained Keshet. “This way we help nature but don’t waste water that can be utilized.”

Another factor enabling increased flow from the springs is that groundwater is being replaced with desalinated water for many purposes.