Parched Sea of Galilee to be replenished with desalinated water

Plans to pump purified liquids into freshwater lake will take almost 2 years to carry out, at an estimated cost of NIS 1 billion

View of the Sea of Galilee (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
View of the Sea of Galilee (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

With the Sea of Galilee dropping to dangerously low levels, Israel’s Water Authority is gearing up to pump desalinated water into the freshwater lake, Hadashot TV news reported Monday.

As Israel appears poised to face a fifth year of lackluster precipitation, the Water Authority has begun work to replenish the northern lake responsible for providing about 25 percent of the nation’s potable water.

The Sea of Galilee’s low water levels have caused rising salinity in the reservoir and are harming the quality of the water.

The plan will take about two years to execute, and is expected to cost NIS 1 billion (approx $290 million), and could lead to rising water tariffs throughout the country.

The Water Authority is also overseeing projects to pump out salt water from the lake, in order to maintain its potability. The Authority says it is currently extracting about 17,000 tons of salt each year.

In October the Water Authority warned that the Sea of Galilee was at a dangerously low level and expected to reach “the lowest level ever recorded.” Northern Israel has a deficit of 2.5 billion cubic liters of water, compared to non-drought years, the equivalent of a million Olympic-size swimming pools. This is water that normally flows through Israel’s streams and underground water tables toward the Sea of Galilee and other water sources.

The north must receive at least 85 percent of the winter average rainfall this winter or the country can expect major streams and water sources to dry up, including the Banias River in the Golan Heights, something that has not occurred since meteorological record-keeping began in the region more than 100 years ago, said Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor. Last year, northern Israel received just 10% of the average winter rain.

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

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