Environmentalists welcome the move. Last full in 2004, the Galilee has dropped six metres. It may be just weeks away from hitting a “black line” – 214.87 metres below global sea level – where it risks permanent contamination and pressure change from sediment.
Israelis hope winter rains will hold that off until the first desalinated water is piped in, next year.
Preserving the lake would free Israel to offer Jordan more water under a 1994 peace treaty.
Israel’s plan provides for piping in 120 million cubic metres annually. Steinitz hopes to see that almost tripled in a cabinet vote next month. Such capacity, he said, would replenish the Galilee by 2026.
Still, with a national election due in 2019 and an unusually wet winter looming, some worry the Galilee could be again neglected.
“The vulnerability of this programme is that the Water Authority has to continue to commit to maximising desalination production,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israel director for the environmental group EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East. “And that is a commitment that could change every year.”
The authority’s director, Giora Shaham, sounded reassuring. “We need this water, not only for us but also for the Jordanians, because they are in very, very tough conditions now from the water problem point of view,” he said.