Located on the edge of a desert belt, Israel has
always suffered a scarcity of water. Archeological discoveries in the
Negev and other parts of the country reveal that local inhabitants
thousands of years ago were already concerned with water conservation,
as evidenced by a variety of systems, designed both to collect and store
rainwater and transfer it from one place to another.
Section of the ancient Roman aqueduct to Caesarea
(Photo: M. Horneman)
The total annual renewable water resources amount to some 60
billion cubic feet (1.7 billion cu.m.), of which about 65 percent is
used for irrigation and the balance for urban and industrial purposes.
The country's water sources consist of the Jordan River, Lake Kinneret,
and a few small river systems. Natural springs and underground water
tables, tapped in controlled quantities to prevent depletion and
salination, are also utilized.
As maximum use has been made of all freshwater sources, ways are being developed to exploit marginal water resources through the recycling of waste brackish water, and desalination of seawater.
To overcome regional imbalances in water availability, most of
Israel's freshwater sources are joined in an integrated grid. Its
central artery, the National Water Carrier, completed in 1964, brings
water from the north and central regions, through a network of giant
pipes, aqueducts, open canals, reservoirs, tunnels, dams and pumping
stations, to the semi-arid south.
Waterfall in northern Israel (Photo: S. Lederhendler)