- Title: Israel sees desalination as Sea of Galilee's saviour
- Date: 5th November 2018
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS SINGING WHILE STANDING IN JORDAN RIVER'S WATER
- Embargoed: 19th November 2018 12:24
- Keywords: Israel Sea of Galilee Christians pilgrims Jordan River baptism desalination
- Location: KIBBUTZ MAâ€™AGAN, NEAR YARDENIT, TIBERIAS, YARDENIT, DEGANIA, PORIYAH, ISRAEL/JERUSALEM
- City: KIBBUTZ MAâ€™AGAN, NEAR YARDENIT, TIBERIAS, YARDENIT, DEGANIA, PORIYAH, ISRAEL/JERUSALEM
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA002958AGXZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Were Jesus to walk on the Sea of Galilee today, he might not need a miracle.
Drought and overpumping have brought the biblical lake low. Holiday-makers and fisherman teeter across ever-expanding boggy beaches to reach the waterline. A reedy island has materialised at the southern edge; it will soon be a peninsula.
The depletion imperils Israel's biggest freshwater reservoir, starving the downstream River Jordan and Dead Sea of vital runoff and diminishing a shimmering, hill-hemmed tourist landmark that rivals Jerusalem as a draw for Christian pilgrims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government sees a solution in desalination, in which Israel is a world leader. Under the plan, approved in June, the amount of Mediterranean seawater processed will be doubled and half of it funnelled 75 km. (47 miles) overland in a new pipe network to the Galilee.
"We are doing this in order to save our nature, to fight global warming, to prevent the effect, the devastating effect, of global warming on the Sea of Galilee, and also to create a very significant water storage for the State of Israel," Water Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters during a site inspection.
Noting the lake's significance to Christians given the Gospel accounts of Jesus' miracles around its northern shores, Steinitz joked: "If he is coming back, we will make sure that he will have to make a real effort to walk on the water once more."
Environmentalists welcome the government's move: Inaction could bring the Galilee, which was last full in 2004 and whose level has since dropped 6 metres (18 feet), to a "black line" with potentially permanent contamination from sediment.
Preserving the lake promises added geopolitical yields for Israel, by freeing up new water resources to offer Jordan under the neighbours' 1994 peace treaty and, perhaps, douse Amman's anger at recent Israeli-Palestinian strife.
The Galilee is around 2 centimetres (1 inch) from the "black line" - minus 214.87 metres (yards) below sea level - and, were current parched conditions to persist, would reach it by 2021.
Steinitz said that an initial flow of desalinated water to the Galilee will begin next year, counter-acting the decline.
The Israeli plan provides for piping in 120 million cubic metres annually. Steinitz hopes to see that almost tripled - to 300 million cubic metres - in a cabinet vote next month. Such capacity, he said, would entirely replenish the Galilee by 2026.
He predicted a bump of between "a fraction of a percent" and 2 percent to Israeli consumers' water tariffs that would help the government defray the infrastructure cost of $622 million.
Still, with Israel gearing up for a general election in 2019 and expecting a rainy winter that would break a 5-year drought, some observers worry that the Galilee could be again neglected.
Both the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, another distributary further inland, have been drying up. The Galilee's southern dam is kept closed lest it draw in Jordan water, reducing the famous baptism river to a trickle.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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