TIBERIAS, Israel, January 30 (Reuters) – When the floodgates are opened, a torrent of water gushes through a dry riverbed and rushes to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a biblical lake in northern Israel which has been lost due to drought and the growing population surrounding it.
The water is fresh, of good quality, expensive. Desalinated from the Mediterranean Sea and transported across the country where it awaits orders to replenish the lake if it begins to shrink again.
The new network will also allow Israel to double the amount of water it sells to neighboring Jordan as part of a broader water-for-energy deal forged through a working, if often rocky, relationship.
The Sea of Galilee, which Christians believe Jesus walked on, is Israel’s main reservoir and a major tourist attraction. Hotels and campsites line the perimeter surrounded by lush hills. It feeds the Jordan which flows south to the Dead Sea.
After a heat wave or heavy rain, the level of the lake makes national news. Alarms have been going off regularly over the past decade following prolonged droughts and receding shorelines.
Israel has therefore built a string of desalination plants along its Mediterranean coast, putting it in the unlikely position of having a surplus of water, a bright spot in an arid region extremely vulnerable to climate change.
“All the extra water that (the factories) produce, we will be able to transport it with the national water transport system to the north and into the Sea of Galilee,” said Yoav Barkay, who manages the national transporter at the time. State company Mekorot. .
He was standing near a collection pond above the lake on a dry, sunny day in late January that felt like spring rather than winter.
“With this environment of climate change, you don’t know what to expect next year and the year after,” he said. “We no longer depend primarily on rain for water supply.”
WATER AND PEACE
The recharge system could be used more frequently with increased water exports to Jordan, he said. It can raise the lake level by half a meter every year, according to Mekorot.
Water was a major part of the peace treaty signed by the neighbors in 1994. The arrangement called for Israel to provide Jordan with 50 million cubic meters of drinking water per year. This doubled at the end of 2021.
Both countries are active participants in the pact, although they accuse each other of exacerbating the wider problem of water shortages through the management of their shared and connected rivers.
Jordanian and Israeli officials have traded blame over river levels, reservoirs and the progress of a separate southern Red Sea water desalination program – all potentially highly charged issues in a tense region where the water is scarce.
But there has been progress.
About a year ago, Israel and Jordan agreed to partner on a project that would see Jordan build 600 megawatts of solar generation capacity to export to Israel in exchange for additional water supplies.
The then Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation said that climate change and the influx of refugees were exacerbating Jordan’s water problems, but there were opportunities for regional cooperation for solve.
Construction of a pipeline is underway to again double the amount that will reach Jordan, industry officials told Reuters.
This means that some 200 million cubic meters of water – the same amount consumed by Israel’s five largest cities combined – will be supplied to Jordan.
The National Water Carrier is empty at the moment, undergoing seasonal repairs and upgrades. At a crossroads in northern Israel, engineers work on a pipe more than big enough for them to stand inside.
They add a new line that runs from the town of Beit Shean and from there east to the Jordanian border. Mekorot hopes to complete it in 2026.
The United States Agency for International Development, which partners with Jordan on water security, says it is one of the most water-poor countries in the world, with water supplies renewable energy meeting about two-thirds of demand and groundwater being used twice as fast as it is. can be replenished.
Editing by Andrew Heavens
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.