Saline groundwater in Israel: its bearing on the water crisis in the country

A. Vengosh, E. Rosenthal

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164 Scopus citations


One of the major causes for the deterioration of water quality bearing heavily on the water crisis in Israel is the ongoing contamination of its water resources by saline water bodies. The present paper reviews the geochemical processes forming saline water, lists and explains certain chemical and isotopic parameters which enable understanding these processes and describes the saline groundwater bodies and various salinization phenomena occurring in the country's various aquifers. Deterioration of groundwater in Israel is caused by numerous natural processes such as encroachment of sea water, migration of connate, highly pressurized brines penetrating into fresh groundwater, by subsurface dissolution of soluble salts originating in surrounding country rocks and by water-rock interaction. In addition to sea water, two saline water bodies were identified as the main factors causing salinization of fresh groundwater: (a) Ca-chloride brines encountered in the Jordan-Dead Sea Rift Valley, in various parts of the Negev and of the Coastal Plain, and (b) Na-chloride saline water identified in the subsurface of the Negev and in the southern part of the Coastal Plain. Intensive exploitation of groundwater in Israel has disturbed the natural equilibrium which prevailed between fresh and saline water. The newly established groundwater flow regimes have facilitated the migration of saline water bodies, their participation in the active hydrological cycle and the progressive contamination of fresh groundwater. These processes which were not anticipated by planners and water resources managers emphasize that large-scale groundwater exploitation was undertaken without giving sufficient consideration to the occurrence and subsurface migration of saline water and brines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-430
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


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