The Rule of "Red Lines" in Safeguarding the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret)
Publication Year: 2005
Eran Feitelson, Itay Fischhendler, Tsafrir Gazit
Over the last two decades, Israel has seen a trend of over-pumping and decline in water quality, a phenomenon which is especially evident in Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). The research focuses on the decision-making process in allocating water to the various sectors, particularly to the Kinneret itself, and the structure of the system of checks and balances that regulates water allocation. The goals of this paper are, to examine the effectiveness of the “lower red line” in maintaining a high water level in the lake and to recommend possible institutional reforms in order to ensure high water levels in the Kinneret.
Ensuring the Flourishing of the Sea of Galilee
We found that the agricultural sector has many institutional tools for preventing cutbacks in the water supply for agriculture. These tools include: appeals to the Supreme Court, failure to publish the allocation key and failure to sign the records, enlisting the help of experts, and exerting pressure on the minister in charge of the Water Commissioner to object to the cutbacks.
In addition, any reduction in the quota of water allocated for agriculture, or raise in the water prices, requires the consent of numerous bodies, including the Knesset Economics Committee, the Water Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of National Infrastructures, the Water Commissioner and the Ministry of Finance.
In contrast, the professional echelon and the environmental and tourism sectors have few tools to prevent reductions in water quotas for the reservoirs, including the Kinneret.
The fact that representatives of the agricultural sector have numerous institutional tools at their disposal, whereas other sectors involved in the allocation process have a much more limited range of institutional tools — places severe constraints on the Water Commissioner when there is a need to decide on cutbacks.
In other words, the system of checks is weak when it comes to changing the allocation of water to the reservoirs, and strong when it comes to the water prices and quotas for agriculture. Thus the aquifers, and the Kinneret, have been allowed to fall below the red line.
A New System of Checks and Balances
Changing this existing institutional structure, which was found to encourage the lowering of the red lines, requires system-wide reform in the water economy. This reform will establish a new system of checks and balances for the water sector, based on the following principles:
1. When the Kinneret reaches a level between the two red lines, the Water Commissioner will be given the autonomy to act as he sees fit.
Restrictions will be placed on allocation and pricing of water, and the Commissioner will be able to act freely within the framework of these restrictions. Any decision to disregard the red line or exceed the limits (on pricing and allocation) will require the approval of a supervisory body.
2. Any decision to exceed the permissible range of water prices or quotas for water allocations to the various sectors, or to circumvent the Kinneret red line, will be subject to the approval of the supervisory body.
3. This supervisory body, which is meant to prevent the inequitable distribution of authority and power, will include professionals from the water sector and academia, representatives of the consumers and from the various regions, and other stakeholders in the water economy. The body must not be biased towards any of the parties represented therein.