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THE NATIONAL WATER CARRIER'S JUBILEE

THE NATIONAL WATER CARRIER'S JUBILEE

Mekorot is celebrating 50 years since the construction of the National Water Carrier – the nation's main water artery and one of Israel’s greatest infrastructure works of the 20th Century.

As far back as 1902, Theodore Herzl recognized the need to transport water in order to make better use of the future  nation’s  resources. What was considered a fantasy at the time, became a reality sixty years later in 1964, with the completion of the National Carrier. In a modest ceremony with the nation's leaders, Mekorot dedicated its flagship project of the 20th Century – Israel’s main water artery for the transportation of water from the Sea of Galilee to central and southern Israel.

The idea to build the National Carrier was born as a result of the geography of the country: Israel is located at the edge of a desert, where there are marked differences in rainfall throughout the country and the fact that the north has natural fresh water sources, which are lacking in the arid south.


"Here there’s water and no land, and here there’s land and no water. So this water must be sent to that land." Levi Eshkol. The idea of building the National Carrier was a central component of a plan called the Fantasy Plan. In 1939 Dr. Arthur Ruppin, Head of Settlement at the Jewish Agency, asked engineer Simcha Blass to present him with a plan to bring water to the Negev desert. Blass’s proposal consisted of three stages – pumping nearby well water, providing water from the Yarkon and bringing water from the north. Mekorot carried out the first part before  the founding of  Israel, but after independence was achieved the need for  water for domestic and agricultural use increased.The founders of Mekorot, Levi Eshkol – first manager of Mekorot, and later Prime Minister of Israel, Pinchas Sapir – the company’s second manager and later Minister of Finance, and Simcha Blass – the water engineer and visionary, worked to make the “fantasy” real.

 
In 1956, Mekorot completed the construction of the Yarkon-Negev works for transporting spring water from Rosh Ha’ayin to the Negev, and in the same year the government decided on the next stage – starting the “Jordan Works” – the National Carrier’s original name – to transport water from the Sea of Galilee to the Yarkon-Negev Line. This task was also given to Mekorot.


Complex Engineering Solutions


Mekorot’s people needed to deal with immense engineering challenges in design and construction: altitude differences, mountainous areas, valley passes, hard rocky ground, preserving the environment, water safety and treatment of water to ensure  its quality.


Mekorot engineers found impressive engineering and design solutions for all of these: starting from the Sapir Site pumping station, which pushes the water to an altitude of 44 meters above sea level, a total of 250 meters, through a reverse siphon, Nahal Tzalmon and Gihon and Nahal Amud – a complex engineering solution intended to save energy and minimize its environmental impact, to canals, tunnels, water reservoirs and water treatment facilities.

 
As mentioned above, the Gihon is one of the most complex and impressive engineering projects carried out by Mekorot in the nation's early days. In order for the National Carrier to pass the 150 meter deep Nahal Amud valley, Mekorot built the Gihon. In a daring operation, Mekorot workers placed steel pipes next to the banks of the stream, in the form of a reverse siphon, based on the communicating vessels principle: water goes down from one side of the stream due to gravity and comes back up on the other side. The excavation and pipe laying works up the cliff performed by Mekorot workers were particularly difficult and complex.


Upon its construction, the National Carrier was largely intended to provide agricultural water to southern Israel, but with time as the population grew, the amount of water was increased to provide  drinking water .

 
Water is pumped from the Sea of Galilee and flows in open  canals to the Eshkol Site, which is located at the southern edge of Beit Netofa Valley. At this site, Mekorot treats the raw Sea of Galilee water in order to ensure high quality water.  Treatment takes place in two reservoirs – a sedimentation reservoir and an operational reservoir, and later at the “Central Filtration  Plant” – among the most advanced of its type and the fourth largest in the world. The plant filters the water and makes sure that it reaches a high level of quality, meeting the most severe Ministry of Health standards. After the treatment, the water is sent throughout the country in a closed system. At the Yarkon Springs station in Rosh Ha’ayin, the National Carrier connects to the two Yarkon-Negev lines and a third water line provides water to the Dan Block (Tel Aviv region). These water works create the national water system, which reaches Mitzpeh Ramon in the Negev.
Much water has flowed through the National Carrier since it was built 50 years ago. Today, over 80% of its water is used as drinking water.

 
The National Water Carrier

 
Facts...
• The National Water Carrier was dedicated on June 10 1964. Its construction started in 1953.
• Its dedication was kept low key due to fears of objections from neighboring countries.
• The idea to build the National Carrier was born following a request by Dr. Arthur Ruppin – Head of Settlement at the Jewish Agency and a member of the first board of directors of Mekorot – for a plan to irrigate the Negev. The request was made in 1939 and the plan was named the Fantasy Plan.
• The project’s planners and the people who made the Fantasy Plan a reality were Levi Eshkol – the Company’s first manager and later Prime Minister, Pinchas Sapir – the Company’ second manager and later Minister of Finance, and water engineer Simcha Blass.
• The National Carrier reaches the Yarkon Springs Station at Rosh Ha'ayin, where it receives water from the aquifer, connects to the two Yarkon-Negev Lines (completed in 1956) and transports the water to Mitzpeh Ramon in the Negev. A third water line provides water to the Dan Block (Tel Aviv region).
• These water works create the national water system.
• Mekorot’s people needed to deal with highly complex engineering challenges in their design and construction work, including altitude differences, mountainous areas, valley passes and hard rocky ground.
• The first pumping station on the National Carrier route is at the Sapir Site. The station raises the water from a depth of 215.50 meters below sea level to 44 meters above sea level, and at the Tzalmon Station, the water is raised an additional 100 meters – 360 meters in total.
• For security reasons and in order to reduce the environmental impact, the National Carrier route passes the Nahal Amud and Nahal Tzalmon valleys via reverse siphons, At Nahal Amud, which is 150 meters deep, the workers placed, in a particularly daring and complex operation, steel pipes against the side of the stream, with water flowing in them according to physical laws – gravity and the communicating vessels principle: water goes down from one side of the stream and comes back up on the other side.
• From the Sapir Station the Sea of Galilee water flows in open channels to the Eshkol Site, where Mekorot treats the water in order to ensure high water quality.
• Water quality treatment takes place in two reservoirs and at the “Central  Filtration  Plant” – among the most advanced of its type and the fourth largest in the world. At the conclusion of its treatment, the water quality is high on a global scale.
• After treatment at the Eshkol Site, the water is sent throughout the country in a closed system in order to preserve  its quality.

 

...and Numbers


• The length of the National Water Carrier – 130 km
• Construction cost was 420 million Israeli pounds (some 4 million NIS).
• It involved 2.5 million working days.
• Over 4000 workers were employed in its construction.
• 7 million cubic meters of dirt were dug up.
• 1.7 million cubic meters of rock were excavated.
• 500,000 cubic meters of concrete was poured.
• 75,000 tons of steel was used
• 15,000 concrete and steel pipes were placed.
• Today, over 80% of the National Carrier’s water is used for drinking water.
• Pumping from the Sea of Galilee varies according to rain levels and various needs.
• In a year with average rainfall, the National Carrier carries 380 million cubic meters of water.
• In 2004 Mekorot pumped a record amount of 252 million cubic meters of water from the Sea of Galilee to the National Carrier.
• In 1999 Mekorot pumped a minimum amount of 95 million cubic meters from the Sea of Galilee to the National Carrier.