(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"Many Middle-Eastern experts are of the opinion that future wars in the Middle East will be caused by the region's severe water shortage, which is why this issue is so high on Israel's priority list." Tania Levi, a KKL-JNF tourist guide, was explaining the importance of KKL-JNF's water projects to a group of young Australian politicians who were visiting Israel as part of a fact-finding mission to the Middle East. Members of the group included Duncan McDonald, John Shipp, Xavier Williams, Jesse Overton-Skinner, Eloise Howse, Jesse Marshall and Joel Burnie. The organizers of the group's trip to Israel asked that the group visit KKL-JNF sites in the Negev desert where they could see Israel's water conservation efforts firsthand and understand their geopolitical significance.
This was the first time that the group had heard about KKL-JNF, so Tania briefly reviewed KKL-JNF's history and described the organization's unique position in Israel, emphasizing the fact that KKL-JNF is Israel's largest and oldest green organization and leads the country's water recycling efforts. The site chosen as an example of a large-scale water recycling project in the desert was the recently dedicated Arye Pools near Beersheva, which is part of the Bnei Shimon region water reclamation project and is sponsored by JNF Australia. The building of the Arye Pools was made possible thanks to a contribution of Tom and Rae Mandel, also from Australia.
Tania opened a map of Israel and showed the group where the Arye Pools and the Negev desert are located: "To get an idea of how important water is to any agreement reached between the countries of the Middle East," Tania continued, "let's look at the peace agreement Israel signed with Jordan. One of the stipulations of that contract is that Israel must provide Jordan with nearly 75 million cubic meters of water per year. This is quite an undertaking for a country with very limited freshwater resources. In order to be able to meet this obligation, Israel, through KKL-JNF, has become the world leader in recycling purified sewage water for agricultural purposes. Almost seventy percent of all our sewage is recycled, freeing up precious drinking water for domestic usage.
"Arye Pools is a good example of how this works. Effluents from the nearby city of Beersheva are purified here to a very high degree. In the past, the purified water could only be used for a limited number of crops, such as cotton and animal feed, but now, thanks to the high level of purification, the water may be used for all types of crops. Some of the water is also pumped back to the city of Beersheva, where it is used for urban landscaping, and for the Nahal Beersheva Park. The Arye Pools will feed a network of five reservoirs and provide millions of cubic meters of water for this desert region.
"KKL-JNF has built over 220 water reservoirs throughout the country over the past few years. In any future agreement with the Palestinians, water will be a major issue. Water knows no political borders. If, for example, the Palestinian city of Nablus does not treat its sewage, it flows over the green line towards the Israeli city of Netanya. If Israel and the Palestinians do not treat polluted water, it seeps into the underground aquifer that we all depend on. Ever since the Oslo agreements were signed, Israel has proposed cooperating with the Palestinian Authority on water issues, but unfortunately, due to political considerations, they are not always interested. When seen in this context, I think the immense importance of KKL-JNF's water-related projects becomes obvious."
The group was fascinated by Tania's detailed presentation, and asked many questions about KKL-JNF and the water crisis. They were especially interested to hear about recycling, desalination, and the proposed Dead Sea -Red Sea Canal. Their schedule, however, was very tight, and Tania wanted to show them how recycled water made the desert bloom. The group boarded their minibus and fifteen minutes later, they were watching KKL-JNF heavy mechanical equipment at work building Tifrah reservoir.
"Here we can see what water means for this arid region. When completed,
Tifrah Reservoir will store 2 million cubic meters of water that will
be pumped to it from the Arye Pools. It covers an area of 300 dunams
(about 75 acres) and will be 17 meters deep. Next to the reservoir is a
new pomegranate tree plantation with over 5,000 fruit trees, in
addition to fields of potatoes. The water used for irrigation of the
tree plantation and vegetable fields comes from the Arye Pools. It
provides a source of livelihood for the people who live here, who
otherwise could not survive. The Negev desert covers about two-thirds
of Israel's land mass, so it is critical to find ways for people living
here to make a living. This is also a perfect example of how KKL-JNF is
able to positively impact Israel's future with the help of its
international network of friends and supporters, without which such
projects would be impossible."
After their visit, the group's representative contacted the KKL-JNF
Australian desk, headed by Alisa Toledano, to express their thanks for
a fascinating afternoon: "The trip to the reservoirs and Tania's
in-depth explanations were one of the highlights of our stay in Israel,
illustrating the complexity of the water problems Israel faces and how
they might be solved. We look forward to future cooperation with
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