(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau unveiled an extensive project by his
ministry to rehabilitate Israel’s rivers and streams at a Green Growth
conference in Ramat Gan on Tuesday.
“If the Kinneret is the heart of the
water sector, the rivers are its arteries,” Landau said. “We want to see
them flowing. And we will do what we can in order to make that
As Israel has begun to depart from its water shortage crisis –
with desalination and recycled water activities taking a stronghold – now is the
time to repair the country’s natural aquifers, Landau explained. The ministry is
therefore working on a plan to significantly advance the rehabilitation process
in a practical fashion. In the past two years, authorities have already begun to
allocate both fresh and brackish (water with a salinity between fresh and
seawater) water to Israel’s streams, with 15 million cubic meters of fresh water
added in 2011, as well as 8 million cubic meters of fresh water and 6 million
cubic meters of brackish water already this year, Landau said.
model to work off of is the Yarkon River rehabilitation, and the Mekorot
National Water Company is already leading several stream rehabilitation projects
as is the the Sewage Infrastructure Administration in the Water Authority,
according to Landau.
“The State of Israel owes nature between 1.5 and 2
billion cubic meters of water, which we pumped during dry years,” Landau
Starting in two years, if all goes as planned, Landau said, Israel
will return about 150 million cubic meters of water per year to its streams, so
that in 10 years the debt can be eliminated.
The Society for the
Protection of Nature, which has long been leading a campaign to return water to
the country’s rivers and streams, praised Landau’s announcement.
in light of the growing quantities of desalinated water, the Society for the
Protection of Nature believes that conditions have ripened for a national plan
for the restoration of water to streams and for their rehabilitation, with an
emphasis on cooperation among the relevant ministries,” a statement from SPNI
This cooperation will contribution to the “important and worthy
goal of rehabilitating the streams after 60 years of neglect and drying, which
caused fatal and sometimes irreversible damage to the rivers,” according to
Acknowledging that he had met with representatives of SPNI two
weeks ago, Landau said that he intends to adopt their proposals as part of the
ministry’s plant to clear Israel’s debt with nature, and he said he is open to
hearing the suggestions of other organizations.
“I call upon all bodies
and organizations to whom Israel’s rivers are important, to join hands under our
patronage for the huge undertaking of rehabilitating the rivers,” he
On the same day as Landau’s announcements, MK Amnon Cohen (Shas),
likewise stressed the importance of “restoring the rivers for future
generations,” in a Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting.
Cohen called on the government to establish an interministerial committee in
order to promote a national program toward the rehabilitation
Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle
East, praised Landau’s intention to restore the water to Israel’s streams and
called the move “a positive step.”
However, rather than just relying on
the ever-increasing supply of desalinated water to fulfill Israel’s needs, the
government also must adopt a policy of water conservation and demand management,
according to Bromberg.
In addition to discussing his plan to rehabilitate
streams, the minister also emphasized the importance of advancing periphery
sewage projects, with a special focus on communities in the Arab sector, to
create proper sewage infrastructure for all communities and thereby help
remediate the country’s groundwater.
The Finance Ministry had assigned
the Energy and Water Ministry a budget of about NIS 480 million for this
enterprise, and in 2011, 81 projects were already budgeted for a total of NIS
355 million, according to Landau.
“This is environmental, this is
equality, this is green, and this is advancing green industry,” he said.