Shamir Drilling - Water For Future Generations

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 10:14 AM


The Shamir drillings in the Upper Galilee are Israel’s new hope for dealing with the difficult water crisis.  These three drillings are being executed with the support of JNF USA's Parsons Water Foundation.  Two of them are already in operation, and the third is in the works.

The water found at the site is suitable for agricultural use, as the findings of water quality research that was undertaken in conjunction with the Technion have shown. The drilled water will be used for irrigating fields and orchards in the Galilee and in the Golan, instead of the water of the Dan River, which is potable and will now be channeled to Lake Kinneret. Thanks to this change, the Kinneret is expected to benefit from an additional 25,000 cubic meters of water annually. This is a very important addition, in view of the grave situation of Israel’s water economy after years of drought and increasing demand.

Shamir drilling site. Photo: KKL Photos Archive

The drilled water is much cheaper than recycled or desalinated water, so the economical sense in utilizing this water is obvious, in addition to water from the water reservoirs built by KKL-JNF in order to help alleviate Israel's water shortage.  During a visit of a KKL-JNF World Leadership Conference (WLC) delegation to the site, Shabtai Glass, technical manager of the drilling site, took Issac Blachor, Vice President  Israel Relations, JNF America, to show him how it works from close up.  Because of the mud, the delegation’s bus was left behind, but the rain and mud didn't stop the two of them until they reached the tap at the end of the pipeline, which runs deep into the ground.  When the tap was opened, water gushed forth, bringing life for the region’s farmers.
“Water is a central issue for Israel, and JNF USA therefore sees water-related projects as a crucial mission,” said Blachor.  “We have many water-related projects, and we will be continuing our activities in this area. We also view the development of the Negev as a very important mission and we are supporting the development of the Beersheba River Park and of the new settlements in Halutziyot, among other things.” 
Glass went on to explain to the participants of the mission that the Shamir drillings are located in the depths of the earth, with an atmospheric pressure of 120. It is an artesian well, which functions due to the water pressure created underground, with no need for hydraulics, which is an additional advantage of these drillings.

The underground reservoir covers a large area - all the way to Syria.  With all due respect to the borders set by man, nature does not always comply. The drilling is being done in Israel, of course.  “We are ready to share the water with our Syrian neighbors, since we view such cooperation as a key to peacekeeping in the north,” said Glass, who lives in the nearby village of Gadot.
As it turns out, these drillings, in addition to benefiting agriculture and the water level of the Kinneret, are good for tourism. The kibbutzim of the northern Galilee are planning to develop a spa based on sulfur-rich, warm water. The quantity of water obtainable from the site is not known as of yet, but geologists estimate that it may benefit many future generations.

Shamir drilling site. Photo: KKL Photos Archive

At the conclusion of the visit to the Shamir drillings, the WLC participants proceeded to the Hula Lake, one of the world’s main birding sites.  More than half a billion birds pass through this site in the springtime, some only passing on their way back north, others staying to roost.  Around 600,000 storks pass through the Hula, as well as many birds of prey, including some endangered species.  There is, however, no doubt that the most famous of the Hula birds are the cranes.  About 100,000 cranes stop at the Hula in the springtime.
Some information about the Hula Lake: in 1951, the government of Israel decided to drain the Hula, for the benefit of agricultural use of the land, which was considered fertile.  KKL-JNF undertook the venture, digging drainage canals and diverting the sources of the Jordan.
Over the years, however, the land dried out and contacted the oxygen in the atmosphere.  Nitrates and phosphates in the soil flowed with the rainwater into the Kinneret and caused an increase in algae, which negatively affected water quality.  In the 1990s, KKL-JNF was once again called upon to save the day, this time in order to flood the area anew.
At present, the Hula Lake is a major tourist site in Israel, and KKL-JNF is partner to its management and development.  At the site, there are several projects that have been established thanks to the contributions of friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, among them the USA, Australia, South Africa, Canada and Switzerland.  The crane lookout was constructed with a contribution from friends of KKL-JNF in Montreal, along with ongoing educational and research activities that are also supported by contributions from Canada.
Not only are there many birds on site, but there is also a botanical garden and a diversity of fauna.  Visitors may tour the site on bicycles, in golf carts, or in hidden wagons attached to tractors, which allow for proximity to the birds with minimal disturbance.
Members of the WLC mission listened to a report on the Hula Lake presented by the Director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, Dr. Omri Boneh. Afterwards, they toured the site on golf carts and were amazed by the breathtaking scenes and the quantity of birds.   A gala reception arranged for them on location concluded the evening.