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Israel Sees Desalination as Sea of Galilee’s Savior

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Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, according to the Bible. Today, that doesn’t require a miracle.

Long periods of drought and over-pumping have brought the lake low. A reedy island has materialized at its southern edge, and will soon be a peninsula. Holiday-makers and fishermen teeter over expanding boggy beaches to reach the waterline.

The depletion imperils Israel’s biggest reservoir, starving the River Jordan and Dead Sea. It also diminishes a landmark that rivals Jerusalem as a major draw for Christian pilgrims.

Israel sees a solution in desalination, in which it is a world leader. It plans to double the amount of Mediterranean seawater it processes and pipe half of it 75 kilometers (47 miles) to the Galilee.

“We are doing this in order to save our nature, to fight global warming, to prevent the effect, the devastating effect, of global warming on the Sea of Galilee, and also to create a very significant water storage for the State of Israel,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who holds the cabinet water portfolio, told Reuters.

Environmentalists welcome the move. Last full in 2004, the Galilee has dropped six meters (18 feet). It may be just weeks away from hitting a “black line” – 214.87 meters below global sea level – where it risk 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.

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