Due to new earthen work dams being constructed to give farmers in the north access to water, flow rates in the Jordan River have decreased significantly; Flow rates exacerbated by lack of a pipe to enable water to run under one of the dams
Amir Ben David|Last update: 25.06.16

Farmers in the north have relied on water pumped directly from the sources of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee for the past several decades. The water has been provided to them by a guild called Water in the Galilee. Due to an ongoing drought, the Water Authority approved the construction of several earthen work dams to create pools from which farmers can draw water for their crops over the last several years.

Dams such as these have brought about a decline in the flow rates of the Jordan River source rivers: the Dan River, the Hatzbani River, and the Banias River. These rivers are also the primary sources of water for the Sea of Galilee.

To ensure that these dams don’t completely cut off the flow of water downstream, the water authority requires that a pipe be placed at the bottom of the dam to enable the water to continue to flow. To keep the Jordan River flowing, there needs to be a constant flow rate of at least 1.5 cubic meters of water a second (by comparison, the Mississippi River in the US needs a flow rate of at least 4,502 cubic meters of water a second).

However, it turns out that the pipe which was supposed to enable the flow of water underneath the latest dam built was never put in place. As a result, there has been a significant decrease in the water flow in the Jordan River.

Despite the fact that the flow in the Jordan River is getting cut off and is getting close to the minimum flow rate needed for the river to continue flowing, the Water Authority has yet to get involved, and has yet to formally request the dismantling of the dam or for the pipe to be installed to enable the water to flow underneath the dam.

Rafi Noy, Chairman of Water in the Galilee, claims that the farmers can’t be left without water, and that the dam was in fact approved to be built without the pipe underneath it.

“The Water Authority gave me permission to build (the dam). I submitted the plans like I was supposed to, and we built the dam. When we submitted the paperwork to put in the pipe from the Drainage Authority and the Hydrological Service, we weren’t given the permits. So we only built the dam. Water does indeed pass through the dam, and we aren’t anywhere close to a scenario whereby the Jordan River dries up.”

What about the farmers?

“Every year we build the dam, but this year (the Authorities) wanted to make some changes. What did they think? That as long as they didn’t give us the permission to build the dam that we would allow all the farmland to go dry?”

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority is worried that the flow of water has already gone below the minimum needed, and that the dam may completely halt the flow of water in the river, causing it to go dry.

“Water is what gives the river life,” said Yonatan Harari, a wetlands ecologist for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. “There is tourism and there are the ecological systems (on the river). If the minimum agreed upon amount of water doesn’t flow, parts of the river will go dry. Fish and other animals which live in and around the water will die. The ecological system will collapse. We saw this in 2014 when there wasn’t enough water flowing in the river.”

According to Harari, “the moment there isn’t any water, this system will collapse. It’s not ‘oh, there won’t be water flowing for two hours, and then it will come back and everything will be ok.’ There needs to be a constant flow of water, and there is currently a possibility that this won’t happen.”

The Water Authority says that they didn’t allow the construction of the dam without the pipe due to disagreements as to the location of the pipe, and that the incident is under review.

The Drainage Authority said that construction plans have been halted until everything has been checked.