After extended rainfall, Sea of Galilee climbs to 209.85 meters below sea level

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

View of the Sea of Galilee, northern Israel, on February 19, 2024. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
View of the Sea of Galilee, northern Israel, on February 19, 2024. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The Sea of Galilee reaches a surface level of 209.85 meters (688.5 feet) below sea level after an extended period of rainfall, according to the Kinneret Authority for Drainage and Rivers.

Kinneret is the Hebrew name for the lake, one of the lowest-lying bodies of water on Earth, and Israel’s biggest body of freshwater.

On February 21 last year, the lake was 210.25 meters (689.8 feet) below sea level.

Breaching of the so-called upper red line, at minus 208.80 meters (-685 feet) below sea level, indicates that the lake could flood. In such a rare situation, water experts must consider opening the Degania dam, just to the south of the lake, to allow excess water to flow into southern stretch of the Jordan River. That last happened in the early 1990s.

The lower red line is at -213 meters (-699 feet) below sea level. Pumping beyond this risks damaging the ecosystem.

Below the black line, which stands at minus 215 meters (-705 feet) below sea level, irreversible damage begins and no water can be pumped at all.

Located in the Jordan Valley, part of the Syrian African Rift Valley, the lake has experienced major fluctuations in its water levels over the years.

Today, most of Israel’s drinking water is supplied from desalination, with the lake serving as an emergency store.

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