Israel declares 1999 a drought year
The 1998/99 winter season in Israel registered the lowest amount of rain since 1850.
Average rainfall reached just 50% of a ‘normal’ year, which prompted the Ministry of Agriculture to declare it a drought year.
This will necessitate paying heavy compensation to growers, and in addition, the Ministry announced last week the cancellation of water allocation for irrigating three major crops, while water allocations for other crops have been sharply reduced.
Daniel Kritchman, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, announced last week the cancellation of water allocation for irrigating cotton, nuts and summer grain crops, such as wheat, corn and sunflowers.
The Ministry official said that water allocations for fish ponds and fodder will be cut by 50%; a 30% reduction for potatoes and a 20% reduction in water allocations for deciduous orchards and citrus groves, “provided the government will compensate the farmers for every cubic metre that will be cut from their allocation,” Kritchman said.
On average, water allocation for the agricultural sector will be reduced by 250Mm3; sources at the Ministry of Agriculture expressed fear that the water cuts will in fact be around 400Mm3. The annual water consumption in Israel amounts to 1.5Bnm3, of which nearly 1Bnm3 is used by the agricultural sector.
Reduced water allocation for agriculture will not affect agriculture production in the Arava desert, the Dead Sea Region, parts of the Negev, the Jordan Rift Valley and the Gilboa-Harod Valley, since these regions are not dependent on water supplied by the National Water Carrier.