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A Great Chance to Work Together for Water Security

A Great Chance to Work Together for Water Security

December 14, 2018

Desert & Water Research

National Geographic – Israel’s bodies of water are shrinking, and researchers at Ben-Gurion University say a collaboration between Israel and its neighboring countries could potentially save both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.

Sea of Galilee

Israel’s interconnected bodies of water are shared with three less-than-friendly neighbors: Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Reversing the damage done will require the cooperation of nations who have failed to work together for the past century.

In the September issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment, BGU researchers depict agricultural overuse as the primary cause of the Sea of Galilee’s depletion. “On the one hand, Israel has done miracles in terms of irrigation, water distribution and making the desert bloom,” says Prof. Jonathan Laronne, of the Department of Geography and Environmental Development, and co-author of the paper. “Yet it has failed to take responsibility for preserving water.”

To respond to the shrinking water supply, five desalination plants have been built along the Mediterranean coast that use reverse osmosis to make seawater potable. According to Israel’s Union for Environmental Defense, 70 percent of Israel’s drinking water now comes from desalination plants.

Jordan and Syria also divert water from the Upper Jordan River, further reducing flow to the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Dr. Michael Wine, a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at BGU who co-authored the report, says there’s a reason why government officials blame climate change and drought. “It’s very convenient because the water managers are not in control of climate.”

Dr. Wine and Prof. Laronne think that Israel should also limit farmers’ water use to allow water to flow from the Jordan River through the Sea of Galilee all the way to the Dead Sea, as nature intended. But this is a sensitive subject. Israel is unique in that its food supply is produced almost entirely within its borders. After all, the country was founded by farmers motivated to turn a desert wasteland into a lush land to support its people. Self-sufficiency is at the core of Israeli identity.

As a result, agriculture is almost untouchable in Israeli politics.

In the end, ensuring water security in the region could prove a unifying cause for Syria, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians, all of whom rely on these bodies of water.

Read more on the National Geographic website >>