Wet winter ends Israel’s 7 years of drought; half of water now supplied by desalination

Special to WorldTribune.com

TEL AVIV — Israel’s water supply has been rescued by one of the
rainiest winters in years.

Officials said the winter of 2012 has eased the threat of a water crisis
in Israel. They said after years of drought, the water levels in acquifers
and the Sea of Galilee rose significantly and beyond the so-called red line.

The Ashkelon desalination facility produces about 5 percent of Israel's total water needs.

“The Israeli water situation is back to normal dimensions after seven years of drought,” Amir Givati, an official at Israel’s Water Authority Hydrology Service, said. “This year is a turnaround.”

During the winter, the water level in the Sea of Galilee rose by two
meters, the first time since 2005. Still, officials said, the sea, the
largest body of water in the country, remains three meters short of its normal level.

Over the last five years, Israel intensified efforts to desalinate water amid predictions of a long-term drought as well as rising consumption.

Officials said Israel’s three main desalination facilities now provide 50 percent of potable water, or 300 million cubic meters per year.

Officials said the government was overseeing construction of another two
facilities that would supply another 300 million cubic meters by 2015. By
2014, they said, 75 percent of water in Israel would be desalinated.

“There is a positive trend, but we must conserve,” an official in the
Water Authority told the Israeli business daily Globes. “The water crisis
isn’t over. It simply didn’t worsen this winter.”

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the Middle East would
see increasing water shortages that could lead to war.

In an assessment
released on March 22, the National Intelligence Estimate also cited the
prospect that Al Qaida and other Islamic insurgency groups could target
desalination plants in the region.

“[This is] because terrorists are looking for high-visibility structures
to attack,” a U.S. official told a briefing in Washington.

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