Israel Says Galilee Water Needs Cut by Rain, Desalination

Israel’s Water Authority has been able to reduce the amount of water pumped from the nation’s main source, the Sea of Galilee, by more than half due to above-average rain and higher use of desalination plants.

“There has been a significant drop, we are now pumping less than half the multi-year average,” spokesman Uri Schor said in a phone interview. About 160 million cubic meters (42.3 billion gallons) of water were pumped last year from the northern Israel lake compared with as much as 360 million cubic meters the past two to three decades, he said yesterday.

To address water shortages, Israel enacted a conservation program in 2008 that included boosting the amount of desalination, or seawater made potable mostly via reverse osmosis filtration. Desalination currently provides about 330 million cubic meters of potable water, which will increase next year to 550 million cubic meters, Schor said.

“The water sources will be more stable and there will be a reliable supply of water until 2025 as long as the public continues to conserve,” Schor said. Israel gets most of its drinking water from the Galilee in tandem with desalination.

Two-thirds of Israel is desert and freshwater sources are scarce, leading the Water Authority to start a countrywide water conservation campaign in 2008. Need has driven Israeli companies to develop new and cheaper technologies to desalinate water.

IDE Technologies Ltd., owned by Delek Group Ltd. and Israel Chemicals Ltd., announced last month it won contracts valued at $650 million to design and maintain the Western Hemisphere’s largest seawater desalination plant that’s being developed in Southern California.

The Sea of Galilee, also known as the Kinneret, is 210.48 meters below sea level, while not as low as the salty Dead Sea it’s nearing its maximum capacity of 208.8 meters below sea level, according to the Water Authority website. The level has been boosted by months of heavy rains.