Fuel derived pollutants and boating activity patterns in the sea of galilee

Efrat Dinerman, Yael Dubowski, Eran Friedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


MTBE (Methyl tert-Butyl Ether) is a fuel additive that replaced lead as an antiknock compound in internal combustion motors. Few years after its introduction, detectable levels of MTBE were found in various water bodies. MTBE has a very low taste and odor threshold and is a potential carcinogen. Another group of fuel derived toxic compounds that has been detected in water bodies is BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene). Boating activity and allochthonous contributions from watersheds are the major sources of fuel derived pollutants in lakes. Their concentrations in lakes thus vary as a function of boating activity intensity, lake surface area and depth, weather and wind regime, land-use in the watershed, etc. The Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) is the only recreational lake in Israel and an important freshwater source. In the current study, a sampling campaign was conducted in order to quantify MTBE and BTEX concentrations in Lake Kinneret, its marinas and its main contributing streams. In addition, a boating-use survey was performed in order to estimate MTBE and BTEX contribution of recreational boating. The sampling campaign revealed that, as expected, MTBE concentrations were higher than BTEX, and that near shore (i.e., marina) concentrations were higher than in-lake concentrations. Despite the clear contribution from boating, high MTBE concentrations were found following a major inflow event in winter, indicating the importance of the allochthonous contribution. The contribution from boating during summer, as measured indirectly by in-lake concentrations, is likely underestimated due to enhanced MTBE volatilization due to strong winds and high temperatures. May-September was found to be the main recreational boating season, with continued boating year round. On average, a single boat is active 23 d/y, with 84% of the watercrafts being active only during weekends and holidays. The survey further indicated that boats stay in the lake for 4.5 h on average, which conforms to the unique winds regime that limits afternoon activity due to high winds, and have an average fuel consumption of 14 L/h. The annual load of MTBE and BTEX from recreational boating in Lake Kinneret was estimated at 4430 and 6220 kg/y respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3002-3010
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • BTEX
  • Boating survey
  • Lake Kinneret
  • MTBE
  • Watershed contribution

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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