Israel plans to revive ailing Jordan river

Thu Jul 19, 2012 12:56pm EDT
 
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By Ari Rabinovitch

KFAR RUPPIN, Israel (Reuters) - The River Jordan is neither deep nor wide these days.

The Biblical river, which has inspired countless spirituals and folk songs, is just a narrow stream in many parts - polluted and stagnant. But that's about to change.

Thanks to desalination and wastewater recycling, there is more fresh water to go around and the Jordan will slowly be returned to its former glory.

From a dusty overlook in 40 degree (104 degree farenheit) heat, Ramon Ben Ari, head of Israel's Southern Jordan Drainage Authority, pointed to a spot where, years ago, water once climbed hundreds of meters when the river overflowed.

It was at the southern Jordan river, the Bible says, that the people of Israel crossed into the Promised Land. And in its waters, Christians believe Jesus was baptized.

Today, as a result of years of overtaxing for irrigation and drinking water, it snakes irresolutely along the valley from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. As far as the eye can see, it is just a few meters wide.

"It's five percent of what once flowed," said Ben Ari, who is one of the rehabilitation project leaders. "You can easily walk across without getting your head wet."

Almost all the water that feeds the river is diverted by Syria, Jordan and Israel before it reaches the south, he explained.   Continued...

 
Youths bathe in a stream at the Valley of Springs near the Jordan River July 16, 2012. The Biblical river, which has inspired countless spirituals and folk songs, is just a narrow stream in many parts - polluted and stagnant. But that's about to change. Thanks to desalination and wastewater recycling, there is more fresh water to go around and the Jordan will slowly be returned to its former glory. Picture taken July 16, 2012. REUTERS/Baz Ratner