The decrease in water level in recent weeks has created a new island on the Sea of Galilee, off the coast of Kibbutz Maagan. If this trend continues, the island could become connected to the coast.

Israel is entering its sixth official year of drought, the Israel Water Authority said Sunday.

Many of Israel’s lakes, streams and aquifers are at record levels over the past 100 years, with the Sea of Galilee dangerously close to its “black line,” the level below the inlet pipes of the water pumps that send the lake’s water to nearby cities.

The Israelis have not felt the current drought as keenly as the past because the country in recent years built five huge desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast that now provide about 70% of the country’s drinking water directly from the sea. The State also recycles about 86% of its wastewater for agriculture. Two more desalination plants are also in the planning stages.

But all these efforts may not be enough to keep the water flowing as they normally do. In May, the Water Authority launched a public advertising campaign entitled “Israel is drying up…. again”, aimed at reminding Israelis that water saving in the home remains important.

To emphasize the point, the authority said that if the drought continues for another year, it will begin to impose limits on Israelis’ water consumption.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman Lieberman
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman Lieberman (Facebook)

The Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest natural water source, is now about 214.2 meters below sea level, according to the authority, 80 centimeters less than at the launch of the advertising campaign about four months ago. That puts it more than a meter below the danger zone of the lower red line. In 2001, the Sea of Galilee was at an even lower level, 214.87 meters below sea level, which was called the “black line” of the lake.

The black line is a dangerously low level that can create irreversible ecological problems, including increased water salinity and algal blooms that can cause permanent damage to water quality, flora and fauna. Last year, the Water Authority had to extract 17,000 tons of salt from the Sea of Galilee to ensure that lower water levels did not make the water too salty.

Authorities now fear that Israel’s main freshwater lake could fall as much as another centimeter a day before the first rains come in the fall, draining the water supply from the Sea of Galilee and causing serious ecological damage in the area. Plans are underway at the Water Authority to pump water to the Sea of Galilee from springs and other nearby sources.

According to estimates by the Water Authority, some 2.5 billion cubic meters of water is missing from the country’s water supply reserves. The drought of the last six years has brought these reserves and the currents that flow from them, to historic lows of 98 years, according to data from the Water Authority.