Lake Kinneret Overflows on Land as Israel Continues to Resolve Water Shortages - The Jewish Voice
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Monday, July 4, 2022

Lake Kinneret Overflows on Land as Israel Continues to Resolve Water Shortages

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Located in the heart of the Middle East where sweltering temperatures are often reported, Israel continues to deal with the environmental challenges of an arid climate. One such problem of being located in the desert is a lack of water, but now some very good news has been reported.

At the end of March of this year, the level of the water in Lake Kinneret (also known as the Sea of Galilee) rose by one centimeter after a weekend of sporadic rainfall, as was reported in the Jewish Press.

Spectacular videos were circulating that showed the waters of the lake rising above land. Lake Kinneret constitutes the largest reservoir of drinking water in the State of Israel.

At the end of March, the water level has risen by a total 10 centimeters (3.9 inches). The water level in the lake now stands at 209.41 meters (687 feet) below sea level – just 61 centimeters (2 feet) below its full capacity, a level also known as the “upper red line” and 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) above the “lower red line” which indicates the water is at a dangerously low level.

In mid-February of this year, Globes reported that Lake Kinneret may reach its maximum level for the first time in 30 years following heavy rains. The lake has reportedly risen by 21 centimeters (8.2 inches) since the start of February and is now 1.27 meters (50 inches) from its maximum level, said the Kinneret Authority, according to the report.

JNS reported that Globes said that the lake has risen 51 centimeters (20 inches) over the past three weeks, and it would take additional heavy rain throughout the remainder of February and March for it to reach its maximum level in 2022.

If that were to happen, noted the report, the Israel Water Authority would open Deganya Dam at the southern end of the Kinneret to prevent flooding.

The last time the dam, which enables excess waters to flow south down the Jordan River towards the Dead Sea, was open was 1992, according to the report.

“This time last year, the Kinneret was under 1 meter (39 inches) from its maximum level, but ultimately, fell well short after it was relatively dry in February, March and April,” said the report.

This season, it noted, “central Israel, including Tel Aviv, has already more than its national average rainfall, while the north has had close to its national average. Jerusalem has only had 70% of its average annual rainfall and Beersheva just 42%.”

Over the past two years, the Kinneret was at a higher point than this year at the end of February and on both occasions still fell short, according to the Globes report.

A JPost report in January indicated that this season, the Upper Galilee has had 411 millimeters of rain out of an annual average of 718 millimeters and Haifa has had 350 millimeters of rain out of an average 500 millimeters, 440 millimeters in Tel Aviv (560), 234 millimeters in Jerusalem (582) and 69 millimeters in Beersheva (205).

The Sea of Galilee not only makes headlines in the winter, when the rise of the water level is reported on a daily basis, but also in the summer when the water level of the lake falls too far, according to a January 25th report in Israel Today.

This happened, for example, in 2020 when the level almost fell below the lower red line at the end of the summer.

The Kinneret’s water level had then dropped to 214.87 centimeters below sea level, and that extremely low level was referred to by experts as the “black line,” according to the Israel Today report.

That was after a series of dry winters, and there were fears of irreparable major ecological damage if the level fell even further.

Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, was then forced to extract 17,000 tons of salt from the waters of the Sea of Galilee to prevent it from becoming brackish, as was reported by Israel Today.

In March 2021, however, the water level in the lake almost reached the uppermost line of 210 meters below sea level.

That was after a very wet winter, and then Mekorot almost decided to open the locks of the lake in Kibbutz Degania so that the surplus of water could flow through the Jordan River to the Dead Sea.

Lake Kinneret is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake) at levels between 215 meters (705 ft) and 209 meters (686 ft) below sea level, as was reported by Wikipedia. It is approximately 53 km (33 mi) in circumference, about 21 km (13 mi) long, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide. Its area is 166.7 km2 (64.4 sq mi) at its fullest, and its maximum depth is approximately 43 meters (141 ft). Wikipedia reported that the lake is fed partly by underground springs but its main source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south and exits the lake at the Degania Dam.

The Sea of Galilee is situated in northeast Israel, between the Golan Heights and the Galilee region, in the Jordan Rift Valley, the valley caused by the separation of the African and Arabian plates. Consequently, the area is subject to earthquakes, and in the past, volcanic activity. This is evident from the abundant basalt and other igneous rocks that define the geology of Galilee, according to the Wikipedia report.

The modern Hebrew name, Kinneret, comes from the Hebrew Bible where it appears as the “sea of Kinneret” in Numbers 34:11 and Joshua 13:27, spelled כנרות “Kinnerot” in Hebrew in Joshua 11:2. This name was also found in the scripts of Ugarit, in the Aqhat Epic. As the name of a city, Kinneret was listed among the “fenced cities” in Joshua 19:35. A persistent, though likely erroneous, popular etymology of the name presumes that the name Kinneret may originate from the Hebrew word kinnor (“harp” or “lyre”), because of the shape of the lake, as was reported by Wikipedia.

The scholarly consensus, however, is that the origin of the name is derived from the important Bronze and Iron Age city of Kinneret, excavated at Tell el-’Oreimeh. The city of Kinneret may have been named after the body of water rather than vice versa, and there is no evidence for the origin of the town’s name.

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