Israel facing water crisis

Israel’s water situation is facing “the worst crisis in 80 years,” the head of the country’s water authority said.

Uri Shani, the director of the Israel Water Authority, said at a news conference Tuesday that 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, Shani 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.

Israel also is trying to step up its production of desalinized water. New measures this week will limit the amount of water that can be used for gardening and nearly double the price of water for gardening.

Also Tuesday, a public relations campaign urging Israelis to conserve water was launched.

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