The National Water Carrier

The National Water Carrier

The “National Water Carrier”, also called the “Jordan Plant” is Mekorot’s flagship project and the largest infrastructure project built in Israel in the last fifty years. The plant, established in 1964, was designed to transport water from Lake Kinneret and other water sources in the north, to the arid areas in the south. After its establishment it was connected to the “National Carrier” – near the Yarkon springs and Rosh Ha’Ain – to the two “Yarkon – Negev” pipelines which were constructed several years before. Thus the national water system that enabled and still enables life and greenery in all parts of Israel was completed. The scope of the power and influence of the “National Carrier”, the main artery of the national water system, is expressed in the following figures:

• The construction plans of the “Jordan Plant”, later on the “National Carrier”, were approved by the government in 1956
• In 1959 its construction began, taking 5 years
• Its cost of construction was circa 420 million Israeli lira
• In the course of its construction, approximately 2.5 million work days were invested, over 4,000 workers were employed, about 7 million cubic meters of dirt were dug up, about 1.7 million cubic meters of rock were quarried, approximately 500 thousand cubic meters of concrete were poured, about 75 thousand tons of steel were sunk and 15 thousand concrete and steel pipes were laid.
• Its length: about 130 km
• Upon its operation, about 80% of the water transferred in it was for agricultural uses and about 20% for drinking water.
• At the beginning of the 1990s the “National Carrier” already supplied half of Israel’s drinking water, from the north to the edges of the Negev.

To understand the complexity of the “National Carrier” one should also address the challenges faced by “Mekorot” in light of the system layout. Pumping the Kinneret waters required “Mekorot” to carve a mountainside and set up a pumping station in the space created. This station – “Sapir Station” – located on the Kinneret shores, pumps the Kinneret waters through an underground pipe and pumps them through the 30 000 kW pumps into pressure pipes, through which they are transferred to the south. The reason for selecting pumps with such power was due to the enormity of their task – raising the Kinneret water and pumping it from below sea level to a height of 44 meters above sea level – a lifting of 250 meters! After being pumped from the Kinneret, the water is transferred to the “Open Jordan Canal”, 17 km long, and from there to the Zalmon reservoir. At the Zalmon reservoir there is another pumping station raising the water to a height of 115 meters above sea level and pumping it in the Beit Netofa Canal, whose length is 17 km. from the Beit Netofa Canal the water reaches the “Eshkol Reservoirs” in Beit Netofa Valley. Later on the water goes through 86 km long pipelines, reaching the Mezer-Zeev Station in Rish Ha’Ain, where the “National Carrier” connects with the “Yarkon – Negev” pipelines. At the point the water is split in two directions: one toward the Dan region and Tel Aviv and the other to the south – up to the north of the Negev. Over the years, along the “National Carrier” route, pumping stations were built, designed to enable adding water to the national system from other sources.

“Mekorot” faced additional technological and engineering challenges. The planned route of the carrier passed through mountains, rivers and mountainous terrain, a fact that required creative solutions in dealing with obstacles. To overcome the terrain “Mekorot” quarried tunnels in sections that had to go through the mountains, while crossing the river along the route was carried out by U-shaped installations – engineering installations operating under the law of connected vessels. A prominent example is “Mekorot’s” solution in Nahal Amud. The solution to the natural barrier of the stream, which crosses the “national carrier” open canal, was expressed in laying U-shaped steel pipes, so that the water comes down the creek on the one side and rises in the other side according to the law of connected vessels. The depth of the U-shaped pipes in Nahal Amud is approximately 150 meters. In addition, “Mekorot” was required to make use of unique mechanical devices, advanced control systems and open canals in a total length of 35 km.

All of these actions and measures reflected “Mekorot’s” national mission, then as today, in the supply of water, the resource of life, across the country. With original thinking, creative solutions and unconditional commitment – “Mekorot” knew to cope with the many challenges facing it when constructing the “national carrier” and to turn the Zionist dream into a sustainable reality.


“The Salty Carrier” –
At the same time of the establishment of the “national carrier”, “Mekorot” established the “Salty Carrier”. Its construction was designed to collect the salty springs that drain into the Kinneret,and thus reduce the level of chlorides (salt content) of the water supplied to the “national carrier”. The enterprise’s route, approximately 22 km long, is parallel to the Kinneret western shore. It begins in the Nur Springs (Tabha) and ends south of the mouth of the Kinneret to the Jordan River. From the Jordan River the water is pumped to the Dead Sea. Additional steps taken by “Mekorot” to bring down the salinity in the “national carrier” include dilution of water with fresh spring water and maintaining the optimal height of the lake waters.