Private Tour Guide in Israel – The Limans of the Northern Negev Desert
הלימנים בנגב הצפוני
There are many kinds of irrigation, watering systems and soil conservation designs. Mostly they depend on the soil, the terrain (hilly / flat) and the amount or intensity of the rain. The more well known ones are the dams, the levies, the mountain terraces and the canal systems.
One of the lesser known is the Northern Negev Liman (Greek origin – “port”).
The idea for the Liman came from the special soil – the Loess. The Loess plains are made up of dust particles that were carried on the wind thousands of years ago from the Sinai Desert and North Africa, and deposited in the northern Negev.
For most of the year they are covered by low bushes, and by flowers in the spring. A complex symbiotic relationship exists between the soil crust – which consists of bacteria, fungi, algae and lichens – and a large variety of animal species that have adapted to this unique habitat and the heavy floods that drench it in the winter.
Due to the build of the soil and the short but heavy rainfall – the soil turns immediately into a crust causing the water to run off and not be absorbed into the ground, and even more important, causing a flash flood and major soil erosion.
A Liman in Israel is the name for an artificial earthen construction used to collect floodwater by damming a desert wadi. The runoff water is slowed down by the dam, thus flooding a small area and allowing the water to slowly infiltrate into the soil. This way, a small groves of trees can be sustained in the desert.
The aim of building a Liman is to stop flash floods and to increase water infiltration, thus sustaining the growth of drought-hardy tree species and vegetation underneath them.
The JNF-KKL has been funding the construction of Limans in the Negev Desert for the last 70 years based on the Nabathean (200 BC-200 AD “Bedouin” tribe that lived in this area) system of irrigating their fields in the low hills.
Limans are structures with small dams which catch runoff from a wadi to hold about 400-600mm of water, which suffices for the growth of drought-hardy tree species. Limans can be built wherever tributary wadis widen or come onto a large plain with potential arable land. A check-dam is built to retain runoff waters. A spillway regulates the level of the water to prevent the destruction of the check-dam. The embankment height should be 3-4 times the designed water depth, and the outlet should be to the side of the main flow to prevent direct through flow.
The suitable tree species because of its fast growth is the Eucalyptus and was mostly used in the past.Overall, any drought-hardy species are suitable, such as tamarind, Syrian mesquite, acacia, pistachio, eucalyptus, date palms and carobs.
As a young soldier training in the Negev I fondly remember those slightly shaded places where we could grab 40 winks from the hot sun or even camp there overnight, Even today these are popular places for picnics and camping all year round.
Most of the Limans can be seen along and close to the roadside in the generally level Beer Sheva area but there are many along the Arava road (90). In the winter and spring they will be full of water and just after the rains in the nearby hill even the wadi will be flowing slowly. In the summer and autumn they will be dry but shadowy. You may even see sheep and goats grazing there in the spring.
Enjoy the slide show.