The water level of the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main freshwater reservoir, has risen by an additional 7.5 centimeters (three inches) following this weekend’s heavy rain, the national Water Authority said on Sunday.
A lack of rain over many years has seen the lake’s level drop sharply, but since the beginning of the current winter, it has risen by 1.87 meters (74 inches), already 22 centimeters (some 8.6 inches) more than in an average winter, reports said.
Almost four additional meters (13 feet) would be required for the lake to reach full capacity at 208.8 meters (685 feet) below sea level, and it certainly will not be attained in the remaining few weeks of the current winter.
The Sea of Galilee lies in a deep valley in northern Israel that is part of the Syrian-African, or Great Rift, valley that runs below sea level for some 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon to Mozambique in southern Africa.
Last week, the surface of the Sea of Galilee rose above the “lower red line” — 213 meters below sea level. The marker was determined as a level below which the lake could suffer long-term ecological damage. In 2001, the lake reached its lowest-ever level at minus-214.87 meters (minus-705 feet), known as the “Black Line.”
“The Kinneret (lake) has risen beautifully in the past few days and we are very heartened, although we still have to consider the deficit that remains,” Uri Schorr, the head of the Water Authority, said.
In the past few days, most of the center of the country and the north received rainfall that has taken those areas to well above the seasonal average. Jerusalem, for example, saw 110 millimeters (4.3 inches) of rainfall in just two days. Flooding was caused in some areas and flash floods in dry river beds that run into the Dead Sea created spectacular waterfalls.
About 70 percent of the water that accumulates in the Sea of Galilee flows in from the Jordan River to the north, with direct rainfall and treated water from the Yarmouk River providing additional amounts.
Some 1,200 trapped students were evacuated on Thursday from a school in southern Jerusalem that was cut off after an access road flooded. Two drivers who were trapped in a vehicle in the Arazim Valley that separates Jerusalem and the Mevasseret Zion suburb had to be pulled to safety by rescuers, through the gushing waters.
Last year, northern Israel experienced one of its worst droughts in 100 years, leaving the country’s water tables with a deficit of 2.5 billion cubic liters of water, compared to non-drought years.