The water crisis

For the first time in a few months the lead story on the news in Israel today was not the war in Gaza, but it was another dire threat to the State of Israel, namely the water shortage. Of course, water is the life blood of this country that exists in an arid zone, and the water shortage has finally been recognized as an emergency by the Government. Today PM Olmert called in the Sunday Cabinet meeting on the responsible authorities to come up with another water emergency plan for Israel. The fact is that the main water reservoir in Israel, the Sea of Galillee (Lake Kinneret), has reached 15 inches above its “black line” after 4 years of drought. The black line is the level below which no pumping is possible because the pump inlets are below the level of the water in the lake. The average rainfall in the last 4 years has been one eighth that of the average rainfall in the previous 20 years. Even though statistics were against it, this year has seen so little rain that this January has had the lowest ever on record.
Already water for agriculture has been cut 20% and many municipalities have switched to using recycled water for their internal use. On Friday, because of the drastically low level, the Water Authority Mekorot, that pumps water from the south exit of the Sea of Galillee, stopped all pumping. Now the rest of the country must depend on other storage and reservoirs, none of which are full. Two desalination plants have been built along the Mediterranean coast, but they produce only 5% of the country’s needs. Another one has just been approved for construction, but as usual too little, too late. This program should have started 20 years ago, although Israeli Governments can always blame the wars for this situation.
There was a supposed agreement with Turkey to ship fresh water from one of their rivers to Israel, but this was never finalized, which is probably good, since the Turkish Government is now unfriendly to Israel and would then be able to control our water supply.
All during this time note that Israel has been pumping water into Gaza. Israel also had a ridiculously generous agreement with Jordan, as part of the peace treaty the Israeli Government agreed to supply Jordan with a huge amount of water. Apparently, whoever negotiated this treaty had no idea what they were doing. Very quickly it became apparent that Israel could not supply this amount of water without causing severe water shortages at home, so Israel defaulted on this agreement, but agreed to pay Jordan a huge amount of money instead. Whoever said that Jews were clever? So now we are paying Jordan for water that we don’t have.
According to experts there is no danger of our running out of drinking water, at least not until next winter. But, other uses are discouraged, particularly watering gardens and cleaning cars, but not forbidden as yet. Meanwhile most people ignore the crisis and go on using water as if there were no tomorrow, that’s Israel.

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