Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Middle Eastern Rains are Good, but Not Enough

The stormy (Middle Eastern style) winter weather that hit Israel and the region seem to have made a massive difference in a region so stricken with drought.

It's difficult for most Canadians to imagine the concept of a drought and a need to adopt drastic water-saving measures, but as this article from Jordan illustrates well, living in that part of the world, rain truly is a blessing.

It also has its costs, as both the article from Jordan and this story about two Israeli construction workers killed in a mudslide caused by the rains illustrates.

Israeli media seems to disagree on exactly how beneficial the rainfall was. YNet cites a 4 centimeter increase in the levels of the Kineret (Sea of Galilee) as of November 3, whereas Ha'Aretz puts the water level at about an 8.5 centimeter increase.

The Israeli Water authority (in Hebrew, but should be clear enough for anyone to understand) shows on it's tracking of the Kineret's levels, that the Kinnert rose 3 centimeters on the 3rd of November and prior to that had risen 4 centimeters over the course of the weekend. This would make YNet more accurate considering the time of publication and would make Ha'Aretz closer to accurate (though still a bit off) at the time of this writing.

What's particularly fascinating, for those interested in water issues, is the quote in the YNet article that reads: "Most of the rivers in northern Israel did not see substantial water flow. The first storms of the season prepare the soil, but the prolong aridity has not allowed the rain to seep through to groundwater yet" and "this kind of rainfall is very important. The soil is ready for the next rain and future watercourse and floods will surly seep into groundwater."

In other words, it appears that the environmental consequences of drought were so severe that the soil was not even able to absorb the water. It appears that even though the rain was beneficial and "important" much of it that may otherwise have recharged groundwater sources was instead needed to prepare the soil for the rains that Ha'Aretz's weather forecast seems to indicate, may not happen for a while.

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