Israel Starts Testing Its Huge Water Project; Water Flowing to Negev

The Government announced last night that water has been flowing from Lake Tiberias to the Negev through the National Water Carrier pipe network for several days in the first test of the huge Jordan-to-Negev irrigation system.

The statement said that testing of the system of pumps, canals, siphons and conduits would continue for several weeks and that if no major repairs, alterations or additions were needed, full operations would start in the summer. The first flow fed into an open canal to test the canal bed along the Lake hillsides.

The Mekorot Company, which is in charge of operating the project, said it was testing pressures of pumps and pipes and canals along the 70-mile carrier from the lake to the central distribution station near Petan Tikvah. The initial testing demonstrated orderly functioning of the huge pumps and pipes to that point, the company said.

Israel has assured the United States that the withdrawals will not exceed Israel’s share under the Jordan waters regional plan developed by the late Eric Johnston as a special emissary of then President Eisenhower. Israel has carried out its part of the plan independently because of Arab refusal to cooperate. Jordan has been drawing water from the system downstream through the Yarmuk tributary and Syria and Lebanon have been drawing water from the Jordan river upstream.

It was reported that between 30 billion and 40 billion gallons would be drawn from Lake Tiberias annually at first and that diversion would be increased to 75 billion gallons a year by the end of the decade. Initially the area under cultivation will not be extended because about two-thirds of the accruing water will be used to recharge or replace the wells on the Mediterranean coast where sea water has infiltrated the water sources. The rest of the water initially will go to existing settlements where water is in short supply.

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