Open access peer-reviewed chapter - ONLINE FIRST

# Sustainable Utilization of the Lake Kinneret and Its Watershed Ecosystems: A Review

By Moshe Gophen

Submitted: March 31st 2020Reviewed: August 25th 2020Published: September 29th 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.93727

## Abstract

Lake Kinneret and its watershed have undergone significant structural modifications. Some of them are anthropogenic, and others are natural. Among natural modifications, the climate change is prominent. Among man-made changes, the drainage of the Hula Valley, construction of the National Water Carrier designating Lake Kinneret as a national resource of drinking water, construction of the Dam on the lake south outlet, agricultural developments in the Hula Valley, and others are included. Additional factors that recently have a significant impact on the management of the lake ecosystem are the development of ocean water desalinization capabilities. Nevertheless, these two ecosystems were carefully studied directed by limnological and wetland-agricultural scientific trait. One parameter was not yet accounted intensively, the assurance of long-term sustainability. This paper provides an overviewed insight into the conducted principles of management toward sustainable management after the establishment of the modifications as an attempt of predictive development outline.

### Keywords

• Kinneret
• watershed
• land use
• climate change
• sustainability

## 1. Introduction

The Lake Kinneret and its Drainage Basin had been widely investigated [1–6] aimed at enhancing basic scientific knowledge as well as ensuring submission of management recommendation to responsible national authorities. Vast majority of the studies were aimed at ad-hoc tracking ecological and anthropogenic changes. Insufficient attention was given to predictive design of systems sustainability. Anthropogenic management interventions are aimed at both, protection, and sustainable maintenance of the ecological structure and services. Nevertheless, ecosystem structures highly depend on the utilization trait. If a natural structure of an ecosystem is not threatened by anthropogenic intervention and/or by natural constrains, protection is smoothly implemented. Global climate change, increase of human population density, and consequently increasing demands for food production while tackling acute water scarcity became critical over larger global zones. Global promotion of desertification (decline of soil fertility) and afforestation amplified human intervention in natural ecological structure. Therefore, ecological management became a critical parameter which has a significant impact on human society. The ecosystems of Lake Kinneret and its watershed are subject for national and international concerns as sources for water supply, agricultural development, commercial fishery and aquaculture, territorial land for living (population dispersal), and more. During the last 80 years, natural and anthropogenic modification were accurately carried out over these ecosystems and consequent management operations were implemented aimed at efficient utilization of the natural resources of land and water while ecosystems sustainability will be preserved. A survey of the history and implementation of achievements which accompanied the ecological modifications in lake Kinneret and its watershed to ensure undamaged and sustainable ecosystem functionality is presented in this paper.

## 2. Background

### 2.1 The Lake Kinneret watershed

Lake Kinneret watershed is part of the Northern segment of the Syrian-African great rift Valley. The Lake Kinneret Watershed area (2730 km2, of which 73% is an Israeli territory), from Kinarot Valley in the south to Upper Galilee (northeastern Israel) and southern Anti-Lebanon in Lebanon is 110 km long [1, 2, 3, 4]. The Total area of the Kinneret drainage basin is 2730 km2. It is divided into sub- units: (1) Northern: The River Jordan drainage; (2) Eastern: The southern part of the Golan Heights; (3) Western: The drainage area of Tzalmon and Amud rivers; (4) South-Eastern and South-Westernminor sections. Versatile vegetations cover, soil and geological formations characterized the Kinneret watershed. Surface mean slope of the Kinneret Watershed is 2.8%. The following major events during the Anthropocene period were: The Lake Kinneret South Dam construction; The drainage of Old Lake Hula and swamps resulted a change of the regional Hydrological conditions; Regional population emigration and immigration; Governmental resolution of Lake Kinneret as major source for water supply and the construction of the National Water Carrier (NWC). These achievements established the long-term national policy of land use and water supply and geo-political boundary [3].

### 2.2 Regional hydrology

Three major headwater rivers (Hatzbani, Banyas and Dan) flow southerly downstream from the Hermon mountain region [2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. The Hula drainage changed the hydrological conditions: Jordan river crossing the Hula Valley splitting into two canals which joint at the south end of the Hula Valley flowing southerly downstream into Lake Kinneret maintains its Water Level (WL). Long-term (1926-present) record of WL daily monitor indicates maximal amplitude of 6.67 m (208.20–214.87 MBSL). The upper limited legislation of WL (208.8 mbvsl) was aimed at prevention of damage to previously constructed housing. The lower limit is flexibly affected by the location of the intake of the NWC (215 mbsl) and precaution of water quality impact. Since 1972 the hydrological management of the entire headwater resources was achieved by precipitation range, national water demands and NWC capacities and obviously by the south dam operation. [3]. Maximal lake water storage was achieved by close Dam limited by WL altitude. These were the management rules when 60% of national domestic water supply were originated from the Kinneret. Nevertheless, ecosystem sustainability aimed at water quality, mainly salinity, might be threatened if dam is closed and major withdraw is done through NWC [1, 2, 3, 5, 12]. Before Dam construction nutrient rich winter inflows crossed the lake through the upper water layers due to their higher temperature than that of the Epilimnion and naturally flew out through an open outlet. After Dam construction (1933) the outflow became human controlled aimed at water storing, and enhancement of salt and pollutants removal [1, 2, 3, 5, 12]. The final decision was a combination of actual conditions: precipitation-discharge range, desalinized water volume availabilities and lake water quality.

### 2.3 Land use

The territorial part of Israel within the Kinneret watershed is 2000 km2 which is 73% of the total of 2730 km2. The agricultural land use in the Kinneret watershed area is given in Table 1 [3, 7, 13, 14, 15].

Type of land coverArea (km2)
Field Crops180
Orchards197
Fishponds, reservoirs, Agmon, Lake Kinneret171
Natural Forest and Grove266
Not Cultivated land1067
Other111
Total1992

### Table 1.

Israeli agricultural land use (km2) in the Kinneret watershed as documented in 2004.

### 2.4 Water consumption

The total legislated water consumption for agriculture and domestic usage (source: National water authority) indicates the following: Until late 1990’s it was ranged between 100 and 120 mcm (106 m3) per year of which 99% for agricultural irrigation: 42% -grooves’ 48% - field crops, 7% -fish ponds, and 1% - human domestic supply. Later on, restriction was instructed to 85 mcm/y and further to 68 mcm/y were implemented with additional supply from Lake Kinneret to the Golan Heights of 19 mcm/y [8, 9] (Tables 2 and 3).

Geographical regionSurface area (km2)Annual rainfall (mm/y)Annual rain volume (mcm/y)
Eastern-Northern Galilee542800434
Jordan-Hermon788900709
Hula Valley20045090
Golan Height580900522
Western Basin450450202
Small Southern Basins17045077
Total2730(Mean: 658)2034

### Table 2.

Precipitation Regime: Geographical sub-units of the Lake Kinneret drainage basin, their surface area (Km2), annual precipitation gauge (mm/y) and calculated total rainfall volume (mcm/y) are given [8, 9, 13, 14, 16, 17].

Used-cover type19491958197619862010
Water24%002%2%
Swamps54%7%7%3%7%
Flooded22%0000
Field Crops059%79%58%68%
Uncultivated017%14%5%
Other08.5%3%10%7%
Orchards003%8%9%
Fish ponds08.5%8%5%2%

### Table 3.

The history of land use/land cover included in the peat soil convention (PSC) in the Hula Valley (59 km2; 5900 ha). Numbers are % of the total area. Historical events: 1952–1957 drainage and conversion to agricultural management; 1989–1995—Hula reclamation project (HRP) implementation [18, 19].

## 6. Shallows: beach vegetation interface

The lake shallows/beach interface is a contradiction between public and eco-limnological services. The surface area of the inundation zone is about 11 km2 according to: Annual WL fluctuates between 209 with lake bottom area is 168.9 km2, and 213 mbsl with lake bottom area of 161.4 km2, lake shoreline length is 55 km and adjacent beach belt width is 50 m. This nearby water beach area is potentially open for recreation service entitled “Aquatic Recreation Belt” (ARB) [41]. Nevertheless, under temporal long-term inundation regime the ARB allocation is not precisely predictive. During heavy precipitation season WL is high and major part of the ABR area is shrunk while after low rainfall season ABR area is wider and immediately covered by beach aquatic vegetation. The fast grower aquatic plants create a nuisance for aquatic recreational activities such as water access and favored environmental conditions for unwanted animals like Venomous Snakes. Fox, Mongoose, Jackal, etc. Moreover, next year the aquatic plants would be flooded and decomposed forming optimal conditions for Mosquitoes reproduction accompanied by accumulation of rotten bad smell organic matters. Reasonable solution might be mowing of those plants which on the other hand probably create shortage of spawning ground for S. galilaeus[10]. The Kinneret shoreline length is 55 km of which only 12.7 km (23%) are legal open public beaches. So far, prognosis of damage is practically negligible while enhancing S. galilaeuspopulation biomass is possible by commercial production of fingerlings. Conclusively, partial mowing of beach vegetation and S. galilaeusreproduction would not be interfered. These objectives are due to the high (212–213 mbsl) WL regime. A recent computation of lake water surface area in respect to WL obviously indicates close positive significant linear regression when WL was below 210 mbsl. Under higher WL the relation was insignificant. It is because WL came the Bethsaida lagoons altitude. Resulting lower elevation of WL with respect to wide flooding area. The Beteicha lagoons densely covered by aquatic plants (Tamarix spp.,Typha spp.,and Phragmites spp.) are known as an optimal spawning ground, YOY care treatment for S. galilaeus. Conclusively [10], beach vegetation mowing as a compromise between fish reproduction interference and human recreation is relevant when WL altitude is lower than 212 mbsl.

## 7. Hula valley farmers and Kinneret limnologists should be friends

Since 1993 flocks of migratory Cranes (Grus grus) stay during 4 winter months in the Hula Valley. The Crane wintering provided the most attractive target for Eco-tourism [42]. The winter migrating of app. 50,000 Cranes in the Hula Valley during 4 months are very attractive, and the touristic visits were enhanced significantly from about 50,000 during the early 1990’s to almost half a million presently. The Crane wintering flocks created severe difficulties, including damage of agricultural crop and nutrient (excretions) sources in Lake Agmon-Hula and further downstream into Lake Kinneret. It might be risky for the stability of the Kinneret Sustainable trait: 50 × 103 Cranes excrete 5.24 gP/Ind./day during 170 days produce approximately 44.5 tons of TP [42] beside other TP sources in the Hula Peat soil, agricultural fertilization and ecological processes in Lake Agmon.

Protection of aquatic Ecosystem sustainability require anthropogenic control throughout the entire watershed. The social, agricultural, hydrological and ecological activities of development in the Hula Valley justify a careful approach., The Crane case, among others, require a significant consideration. The Hula Valley contribute above 50% of the external nutrient inputs into Lake Kinneret and the agricultural management has an impact on nutrients merit to the lake. Ecotouristic management including Crane wintering as visitors’ attraction is part of reasonable entire Valley management and Kinneret water quality protection. Therefore collaborative management by the farmers and tourism managers is vital. A collaborative solution between farmers, nature authorities, water managers, land owners, and regional municipalities was budgeted and implemented. Money was allocated for the renting of a 40 ha field block in the valley dedicated as “Feeding Station” where purchased Corn seeds are given to the cranes twice a day. Feeding start in late December and continue until early March when the Cranes fly back to Europe for breeding. Cranes which land prior to Mid-December are deported aimed at reducing number of potential feeders, prevention damage and reduction of the cost of Corn seeds. This achievement initiated benefits for both the landowner farmers by income resource as half a million bird visiting watchers (priced entrance) while the Hula Valley effluents were not significantly deteriorated.

It is suggested that Cranes do not contribute a significant addition of TP to lake Kinneret and the Epilimnion increase is the result of internal sources. Moreover, positive regressions were indicated between River Jordan discharge and nutrient inflow loads which is r2 = 0.596, (p < 0.0001) for TP. Independently, the discharges in the Jordan River were declined since the mid-1980’s from 15 to <10 m3/s caused by precipitation decline.

The reconstruction of the old Hula native Flora and Fauna indicated approximately 300 bird species 12 fish species, 40 plant species observed in the Hula Valley.

The Eco-Touristic Crane Project was designed to be a part of a comprehensive objective aimed at establishment of watershed and lake Kinneret ecosystems sustainability.

The Hula Reclamation Project was aimed at ensuring sustainability of modified eco-systems by bridging over the conflict between agriculture development, Kinneret water quality protection and nature conservation. The tension between farmers, water managers, nature preservation was reduced, and collaboration came instead. The outcome of the HP was renewal of an ecosystem, which has become a tourist attraction including enriching the biological diversity.

## 8. Conclusive summary

The management of Lake Kinneret and its watershed require a national attempt to ensure their sustainability. These ecosystems are crucial for the nation and their protection is the national concern. Their functional efficiency can be achieved by long term managerial operation conducted by principles of sustainability. The outcome of this paper evaluations are the following recommendations: Lake Management: (1) Shorter length of residence time to enhance water exchange and input of desalinized waters and together with pumped withdraw for supply and Dam open policy and lowering of WL are accepted options; (2) Recommended WL range between 208.8 and 213 mbsl with annual fluctuated amplitude of 1.5 m; (3) Enhance nitrogen supply to the epilimnion to encourage Peridinium bloom renovation; (4) Stocking of Sarotherodon galilaeusand Hypophthalmichthys molitrixand implementation and enforcement of fishery regulations; (5): Renewal bleaks fishery; (6): Mowing of aquatic vegetation in public beaches; Management of the Watershed: Enhance peat soil moisture through continuation of the “Peat Soil Convention”; agricultural maintenance accompanied by eco-tourism with reasonable population size of cranes and regulated number of visitors.

chapter PDF

## More

© 2020 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

## How to cite and reference

### Cite this chapter Copy to clipboard

Moshe Gophen (September 29th 2020). Sustainable Utilization of the Lake Kinneret and Its Watershed Ecosystems: A Review [Online First], IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.93727. Available from: