Five water facilities in the Negev, developed through donations from friends of KKL JNF in Australia, are bringing life to the desert, contributing to the environment and providing the residents of the region with income from agriculture. “Water is the symbol of life, but for us it is much more than a symbol,” said Sigal Moran, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, where the facilities are located. “Water is a pressing issue all over Israel, but here in the Negev it is the key to our survival.”
The facilities are located at Tifrach, Hatzerim, Nevatim, Shomriya and the Aryeh Pools, and they will be treating approximately 17 million m3 of water annually, a quantity that will supply about twenty agricultural communities thus relieving the pressure on fresh water sources for human and animal consumption. According to Moran, this water will provide for the livelihood of hundreds of families in many locations and allow the communities of the Negev to grow and absorb new residents.
Because of the 40% cutback in water allocations in recent years, many farmers in the Negev had to discontinue farming their lands, and the reclaimed water will allow them to resume cultivation of those fields that had to be abandoned. These reservoirs are a vital contribution to the quality of life and the environment in the region reducing pollution and freeing up scarce fresh water resources.
Dror Karavani, Director of Economic Planning and Development in the Regional Council, said that because of the creation of these facilities and the increase in cultivable land, the local authority has established a lab for research and development of water and soil testing for further water and land conservation on a sustainable basis.
Before these facilities were established, about 10 million m3 of water was wasted
every year. In a region were every drop of water is so important, no one can allow so much waste. The support of friends of JNF Australia remedied the situation.
The transition to using treated effluents saves freshwater, which is meant first and foremost for human and animal use. It is also very advantageous for the farmers, since reclaimed water is less expensive than freshwater by about 50%, so their crops become more profitable.
Another important point is that if, in the past, there were effluents flowing in the streambeds, seeping into the ground and polluting the groundwater. The environment will now be kept cleaner, because all that sewage will be treated and reclaimed for irrigation.
The Aryeh Pools – A High Quality Water System
At the core of the new network of facilities are the Aryeh Pools, three pools, each with a volume of 50,000 m3. One of the pools intakes the wastewater, another treats it, and there is a third pool in case of surplus water or mishaps. The Aryeh Pools were built with contribution from Tom Mandel, of blessed memory, and his wife Rae.
The water that arrives from the Beersheba Wastewater Treatment Plant is on a secondary level of purity, and at the Aryeh Pools it undergoes treatment to a tertiary level. The treatment facility at the Aryeh Pools has a filtering system and a UV system that destroys the pollutants. The treated water is close to potable water in quality and is suitable for irrigating all kinds of agricultural produce.
Uri Asher, Deputy Director of the Moshavei Hanegev Development Company, which includes thirty-four local communities, explained that fields used in the past for growing cattle fodder or cotton may now be used, thanks to this reclaimed water, for growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables
- potatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, radishes, maize, citrus, almonds and more. This is, of course, very helpful for the farmers, as they may now select crops with the greatest demand and profitability.
The treated water produced at the Aryeh Pools is of such high quality that with chlorine added, it can even be used for gardening with approval from the Health Ministry. Thanks to these pools, Beersheba will be getting back about 1.5 million m3 of water for urban gardening. The water will also be used for irrigating Nahal Beersheba Park, a major ecological and tourism project in the region also being executed by KKL JNF.
The water will be channeled from the Aryeh Pools to the nearby facilities - Tifrach in the north; Nevatim in the south, and Merhavim, still being planned - and will comprise 3.7 million m3. The pumping facility for distribution of the water is already in place, and the system is ready for operation.
“The value of this water system is that it allows for the utilization of all the wastewater and for the distribution of the reclaimed water in an efficient manner to the various agricultural communities,” Asher concluded.
The Tifrach Facility – A Pomegranate Plantation in the Desert
When you approach the Tifrach pool, the first thing you see is the magnificent pomegranate plantation that surrounds it, and at this time of year, the pomegranates are already red and beautiful.
This new facility, which was created thanks to the support of friends of JNF Australia, ensures that it will be possible, in coming years, to extend the area of this plantation beyond the 70 hectares it presently covers. There are also vast cotton fields in the vicinity of the reservoir covering an area of 120 hectares. Thanks to this water conservation facility, it will be possible to diversify the crops that are cultivated, instead of concentrating on cotton and wheat, which are biennial crops. The Negev farmers are considering growing potatoes and carrots, so it is likely that you will be seeing new crops next time you visit.
The Tifrach facility was completed two months ago, and next month water will begin flowing into it, initially a relatively small quantity in order to stabilize the system and test it. The quantity will gradually be increased to a maximum capacity of 2 million m3 of water, and it is estimated that the facility will reclaim 5 million m3 of water annually.
The Tifrach facility will receive water from the Aryeh Pools on a tertiary level of purification, and water from the wastewater treatment plant in Sede Teiman. In addition to agricultural use, the facility will also be serving the communities of Brosh, Tidhar and Taashur for the irrigation of vast natural and park areas.
The Nevatim Facility – Going Green Again
Work on the Nevatim facility is progressing rapidly. Work on the site started in October 2010 and, according to Dany Tubul, KKL JNF foreman, the facility is expected to be completed by the end of October 2011.
The digging has been completed, and now the team is working on smoothing the inclines and treating the earth. They have even begun the stage of lining the reservoir's slopes with clay material. The next stage will be the installation of sealing sheets. The pipelines for conducting the water f
rom the Aryeh Pools are already in place, and water they are conducting is already being used.
The facility will have a capacity of 1 million m3, and it will be supplying about 3 million m3 of water annually. In addition to the water from the Aryeh Pools, it is likely that in the future, the facility will also recycle effluents from the Nevatim army base and from the water treatment facility in the Bedouin town of Aro'ar.
Nevatim Water Reclamation Facility was established with the help of friends of JNF Australia and will provide water for agriculture and land management in all the communities of the region - Nevatim, Revivim, Mashabei Sadeh and Sede Boker. Water will also be supplied for the Nahal Beersheba Park and for parks and gardens in city of Beersheba and surrounds. Water from the facility will also be used to irrigate the parkland and natural areas at nevatim also established through the support of friends of KKL JNF Australia.
Dr. Nehemia Shahaf, an agronomist who is on the administrative committee of Moshav Nevatim and is the CEO of the Shikma-Besor Drainage Authority, said that in the past, there was a big green spot covering an area of about 1,000 hectares between Nevatim and Beersheba, thanks to cultivated fields. Unfortunately, he said, these fields were abandoned because of water scarcity, and the entire area is now brown.
“I hope that because of the new supply of water, we will be able to resume cultivation of these fields,” said Dr. Shahaf. “We do not lack land, only water,” he said, “and our plans to grow potatoes, expand the jojoba plantation and grow all kinds of vegetable instead of fodder, are possible now thanks to the new facility which addresses pollution, provides water for agriculture and frees up scarce fresh water for human and animal needs.
The Hatzerim Water Reclamation Facility – History, People and Ecology
The first water harvest dam on Kibbutz Hatzerim was established in 1946, right next to the place where the modern one is located at present. Eli Rothschild, one of the kibbutz elders, was one of the Palmach members who participated in the exercise which was done manually using mules. The dam had a capacity of 1,500 m3, and it would collect floodwater in the winter. During the War of Independence, when the pipelines that supplied water to the kibbutz were damaged, the small dam saved the lives of the residents.
Sixty-five years have passed since then, and Rothschild, who is eighty-two years old and the director of water projects on the kibbutz, worked on the construction of the new reclamation facility together with KKL JNF. Apparently there are some things that do not change so fast.
The facility, which began operating one year ago, intakes the effluents of the
kibbutz and of the adjacent air force base. It was built thanks to the support of JNF supporters Ma'alot 360° in Melbourne and Michael Triguboff and his family from Sydney. Its capacity is 60,000 m3, and it processes around 1.8 million m3 of water annually. All the water is destined for the preservation of the natural area and the irrigation of 300 hectares of jojoba orchards. The water is of a secondary level of quality and is definitely suitable for this crop.
Jojoba seeds are used to produce oil, which is manufactured in a plant on the kibbutz and exported for the cosmetic industry in the United States, Europe and South America. Jojoba oil is an ecological substitute for whale oil. In addition to its ecological advantage, the facility has contributed to the economy of the kibbutz by enabling them to conserve fresh water by using cheaper recycled water for irrigation and cultivation purposes.
The Shomriya Reclamation Facility – Water Enrichment Vegetation
The Shomriya facility also established thanks to the help of friends of JNF Australia will be fully operational within several weeks. The two settling pools, where the water undergoes primary treatment, have already started functioning, and wastewater has been channeled to them. Each one has a capacity of 5,000 m3, and the effluents come from the kibbutz, from the dairy farm and from the nearby army base.
From the settling pools, the water will be conducted to four shallow reed pools, where it will undergo secondary treatment. Wastewater treatment using reeds is a unique method. The reeds introduce oxygen to the water, which enriches the water and contributes to its purification. The reed pools are in the completion stage. They have already been sealed, and the reeds will be planted in the next few weeks.
In addition, the establishment of another pond with a capacity of 60,000 m3 has been completed and will store treated water and channel it to the fields for irrigation. Eventually, this facility will reclaim about 300,000 m3 of water annually.
“We are hoping that the pool will fill up next winter,” said Zevulun Kalfa, the secretary of Kibbutz Shomriya. Kalfa said the plan is to plant olive groves using treated water. The water will also be used for irrigating the vineyards of the kibbutz.
“When there is land but no water, it is like trying to walk on one leg,” said Dudi Raisch, the secretary of the kibbutz. “The new facility will allow us to expand our cultivated areas, consider growing more profitable crops, create job opportunities and absorb new residents. In short, we will now be able to run ahead on two legs.”
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