Israel Facing Unprecedented Water Crisis
Contact: Jodi Bodner • JNF Director of Communications • 212-879-9305 ext. 221 • firstname.lastname@example.org
July 11, 2008 --Israel and New York -- In response to the unprecedented water crisis in Israel, Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF-KKL) is building five new reservoirs across the State.
To date, JNF-KKL has funded and built 200 reservoirs and dams throughout Israel, adding over 66 billion gallons of treated water and flood water to Israel’s national water economy, or 10% of the total water supply. This water irrigates about 112 thousand acres of orchards and field crops that would otherwise use up scarce freshwater. JNF reservoirs meet about 40% of Israel’s agricultural water needs, thereby alleviating the pressure of supplying drinking water to the population.
At a special news conference this week in Tel Aviv, Uri Shani, director of the Israel Water Authority, laid bare the facts: “This is the worst crisis since records started being kept 80 years ago,” he said. “Like most countries, Israelis dependent on rainfall and the amount of rainfall is decreasing.”
Shani described the increasing damage to Israel’s main natural water sources.“Israel's major sources of drinking water, including the Sea of Galilee and the mountain aquifer, are below their ‘red lines,’ meaning they are not recommended to draw water. Another large water source, the costal aquifer, has fallen below its ‘black line’ -- if additional water is drawn it could suffer serious damage. The mountain aquifer is likely to reach its black line this year,” he said.
Shani said the Sea of Galilee also would reach its black line by December. It is not possible to pump water from the sea at that point since the pipes are unable to reach the water.He added that long range weather forecast predictions tell an equally grim story for next year.
To alleviate the crisis, the Water Authority has started to pump water from tributaries that empty into the Sea of Galilee -- water that was not expected to reach the sea or be used until 2010. In addition, polluted wells will be purified and desalination plants will increase their output.
Though desalinized water will play a vital role in closing the gap it is more expensive than recycled water and can also be recycled, thereby making efforts that focus on recycling water all the more valuable.
"JNF-KKL’s research on the uses of recycled water, as well as the continued building of reservoirs all over the country, are an immediate and most effective solution to alleviating Israel’s water predicament and are an integral part of its plans for supplying water over the long term. Thankfully, JNF foresaw the significance of the water issue and began allocating resources to build reservoirs in the late 1980s.
Currently, nearly 90 billion gallons of waste water in Israel is not getting recycled. JNF has committed to building another 20 reservoirs over the next two years. Reservoirs that do not store recycled water capture rainwater and flood runoff, which would otherwise be lost to the sea, for irrigation and to enrich underground aquifers.
Israel’s total water consumption today stands at around 2 billion cubic meters of water per year. By the year 2020 the population of Israel is expected to grow by another three million people. This means that the country will require another 300 million cubic meters of drinking water in order to cope with this population growth and the ever-rising standard of living.
The five reservoirs currently under or about to begin construction are: Beit Guvrin in the Adolam Region; Ayelet Hashachar/Gadot in the upper Galilee; Sderot; Sharona in the lower Galilee; and Alonim in the Jezreel Valley.
In addition to reservoir construction, JNF is also involved in river rehabilitation. As the coordinating body in the effort to restore Israel’s rivers, JNF, together with Israel’s Ministry of the Environment, manages a highly intricate network of partners and authorities. In 1993, JNF and the Ministry of the Environment created the River Rehabilitation Authority that is the umbrella authority of over 15 governmental, non-profit and research bodies concerned with river health. River restoration includes channel regulation to conduct floodwaters, reduction programs in the quantity of waste and raising the purification level to a suitable baseline for fish breeding and selective irrigation. Over a dozen streams have already benefited from JNF’s efforts, including the Ein Harod River bordering the Jezreel Valley and the Alexander River near Netanya, a severely polluted 20-mile stream that runs through Jewish and Arab towns. JNF led a joint effort between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to restore the Alexander River. Currently, JNF is embarking on a major joint program to rehabilitate the Yarkon Riverrunning through Israel’s largest population center.
Caption: Water levels are dropping in the Sea of Galilee.
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
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