Shrinking Sea of Galilee sees rising salinity, endangering water quality

Dropping levels of Israel’s largest freshwater reservoir are forcing Water Authority to artificially pump out salts to maintain potability

View of the Sea of Galilee, northern Israel, April 19, 2017. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)
View of the Sea of Galilee, northern Israel, April 19, 2017. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

The Sea of Galilee’s ever-dropping water level is causing rising salinity in the reservoir and harming the quality of the water, Hadashot news reported Tuesday.

Israel’s Water Authority is hard at work on 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.

Hadashot reported that many northern streams that feed the Sea of Galilee have dried up due to the ongoing drought.

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.

Schor is in the midst of designing a large public awareness campaign for early 2018 to encourage people to save water in their homes.

Doron Markel, the director of the Sea of Galilee division at the Water Authority, has warned that the repeated droughts in recent years are indicative of “a permanent situation of climate change,” and the country will need to adjust accordingly.

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: