National Water System (Israel)

views updated


agency that oversees the planning and development of israel's water resources.

With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, much effort was expended on drawing up an inventory of national water resources, defining growth objectives for the country, and planning methods of development. The first comprehensive water-development plan was adopted in 1950, stressing the maximum conservation of water. In 1952, Tahal, the Israel Water Planning Corporation, was set up to plan the water, sewage, and drainage systems and to supervise development. In 1959, Israel's Knesset (parliament) passed the Water Law, vesting all water rights in the state and giving the water commissioner in the ministry of agriculture the sole authority to fix tariffs, allocate water, and issue licenses for exploiting water resources.

All water development schemes are closely integrated with plans for agriculture and the realities of the scarcity of both land and water. The development plans must also take into account shortages of capital. The price of water is therefore high and, until recently, farmers paid the least, since preference was given to irrigation installations that facilitated control of the amounts of water used, minimized conveyance losses, and were economical in the use of labor.

Israel's climate is typically Mediterranean, with rainfall occurring only in the winter and decreasing from north to south. Rainfall in the north averages 39 inches (1,000 mm) yearly; in the central coastal plain 19 inches (500 mm); in the extreme south only 1 inch (30 mm)but there are yearly fluctuations. Its only major river running from north to south is the Jordan River. Its smaller rivers include the Yarkon, the Kishon, and the Sorek. They all empty into the Mediterranean Sea, along with more than a dozen major streams. National development projects aim at using groundwater, springs, storm runoff, and reclaimed wastewater. The largest project predated the Johnston Plan and was completed in the 1960sthe National Water Carrierwhich conveys water from the northeast to the center and, at the same time, integrates all local and regional waterworks into one national water "grid," operated according to a national plan.

Israel claims that the integrated water sources available for the nation amount to about 370 million gallons (1,400 million cu m) per year. The majority of this water comes from the upper Jordan River and includes water from the springs around the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias or Lake Kinneret), from the lake itself, and from coastal and foothill groundwater sources. A smaller amount of this water comes from the groundwater of the Galilee mountains, the Kishon river system, the Yarkon river system and the springs, storm runoff, and reclaimed waste of Israel's cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Regulation is aided by the use of two main storage facilities: (1) the Sea of Galilee in the north, which is used for excess Jordan River waters during the rainy season, and (2) the aquifer under the central hills, which was integrated into the grid system after the 1967 ArabIsrael War.

A major priority in Israel's early decades was the expansion of irrigation, with domestic and industrial water supply taking second place. Priorities have now changed, and irrigation is being cut back as both population and industrialization have grown.

see also arabisrael war (1967); galilee, sea of; johnston plan (1953); jordan river; knesset; water.


Blass, Simcha. Water in Strife and Action. Ramat Gan, Israel, 1973.

Wiener, Aaron. The Role of Water in Development. New York and London: McGraw-Hill, 1972.

sara reguer

About this article

National Water System (Israel)

Updated About content Print Article


National Water System (Israel)