Climate Change Threatens Sea of Galilee as Israelis Attempt to Save Waters – Newsweek
Climate change has tightened its grip on the Sea of Galilee, leading to lower water levels in Israel’s largest freshwater lake. Israelis are trying to replenish the water loss through various processes that contribute to a negative feedback loop with global warming.
The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret, is an important part of Israel’s economy, serving as a rich tourist destination with extensive religious importance. In the New Testament, Jesus reportedly performed many miracles near the Sea of Galilee, such as preaching from the lake’s shores and feeding thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Tides have turned in recent years as global warming has caused the water level to sink.
Canada research chair Peter Leavitt with the University of Regina said the atmospheric increase in heat will lead to more water evaporation. Lake levels, specifically those in warmer climates like Israel, will continue to decline, Leavitt said, adding that the Sea of Galilee is the only reliable freshwater lake in the Middle Eastern country.
“The problem in Israel is really more severe,” Leavitt told Newsweek. “Anything that affects the water supply to that lake is a big social and political concern, as well as environmental concern.”
Leavitt added that as climate change increases, the situation at the Sea of Galilee is expected to worsen.
Israel is well-versed in a process called desalination, in which reverse osmosis is used to remove salt from seawater. Water is pumped from the Mediterranean Sea and desalinated using the reverse osmosis process. The desalinated water can then be used as drinking water or, in the case of the Sea of Galilee, lake replenishment. However, the process of desalinating the water uses natural gas, a fossil fuel contributing to greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
“Israel has taken a leadership position in desalination. But the removal of salt is a very energy intensive process,” Leavitt said. “So if you are reliant on fossil fuels to remove the salt, you do create a feedback loop there where the increase in fresh water is partially offset by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Israel boasts five desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast, according to reports by CNN. The plants provide nearly all the tap water for Israel’s more than 9 million residents.
CNN reports that although the plants run on natural gas, grids may transition to greener energy sources, making Israel’s desalination process more attractive to other warm climates struggling with drought.
Israel’s newest project is the construction of a 1.6-meter-wide water pipe stretching 31 kilometers. CNN reports the project is “the first of its kind” and will take desalinated water and pump it into a stream feeding the Sea of Galilee.
Leavitt said the Sea of Galilee formerly was Israel’s main source of drinking water, but now, very little water is pumped from the lake. The Israel Water Authority ceased pumping water from the lake entirely in 2017 when a drought led to the lowest levels the lake had seen since 1920. Israel desalination plants began operating in 2005, according to The Jerusalem Post, and since then, less and less water has been pumped from the Sea of Galilee.