"Israel is a small country with a big water problem, particularly in regards to water for agriculture." Ze'ev Kedem, KKL-JNF Fundraising Director, was speaking on Wednesday, May 10, to the Australian Gold Patrons Mission at the site of Israel's first biofilter in Kfar Saba. "KKL-JNF has done a great job building water reservoirs, which now provide a great deal of the water needs of Israel's farmers, but it's not enough. We can and will desalinate, but that's not a perfect solution. Desalination pollutes the ocean, is expensive, and most importantly, desalinated water cannot be used for agriculture, because it lacks the minerals that are essential for crops to grow.
"This is why the biofilter project is so important, because it takes advantage of a huge and untapped water resource – runoff water in our cities. Yaron Zinger, a doctorate student at Monash University in Melbourne, who specialized in biofilter technology, wanted to implement it in Israel, but he needed a partner. This is where Joe Krycer and KKL-JNF came into the picture. KKL-JNF in Israel was as enthusiastic as you were in Melbourne. Through your contribution, you are part of Israel's development."
Yaron Zinger, the supervisor of the biofilter project, spoke about the lessons learned from the biofilter's first winter and about plans for the future: "I feel at home here, not just because the project is my second home, but because of the people who are involved with it. You made this happen.
"We found that the raw stormwater in Kfar Saba is very polluted compared to American and Australian standards, and cannot be used for irrigation. The amazing thing we discovered this winter was that after the biofilter treatment, water quality met international drinking water guidelines. So we decided to do something here that was not previously attempted with water from biofilters, which is to pump the purified water into the underground aquifer and enrich it. Due to over-pumping, the water level of Israel's coastal aquifer is sinking, and sea water is seeping in, causing the water to become brackish. The water from the biofilter replenishes the aquifer and enhances water quality, which means that this technology is significant not only on a local level, for Kfar Saba, but for the entire country.
"In terms of the future, we want to build two additional biofilter pilots, but in different regions of the country. Due to the success of the Kfar Saba project, some people in the government became very enthusiastic and wanted to build biofilters everywhere, but I'm a scientist, so I want data from different geographic and climatic regions before going large scale. KKL-JNF is now involved in fundraising for the new biofilters, and we're looking forward to additional partners for this truly revolutionary idea, which could provide a sustainable solution for one of Israel's major challenges.
"It is important to note that KKL-JNF is the perfect partner for this type of endeavor, because its interest is solely Zionistic and ideological, which enables us to conduct serious scientific study, without commercial considerations. Joe Krycer is involved in every detail of our progress, and along with the Australian community, is a full partner. I would especially like to thank KKL-JNF's CEO, Yael Shealtieli, who managed to get the Israeli Water Authority and Mekorot on board. Without KKL-JNF in Australia and Israel, this project would never have happened."
Eshel Armoni, Kfar Saba CEO, spoke on behalf of the municipality: "You have come a long way to see this beautiful project, which we are very proud of in Kfar Saba. Sustainability is one of our city's major goals, and a green agenda has been promoted by our mayor, Yehudah Ben Hamu. It's not easy, because green means reaching deep into the pocket, so I want to thank you for all you've done. Although you live many miles away, we feel your support here every day and appreciate it. I think that what we have accomplished here is a great example for all of Israel."
Ze'ev Kedem invited Joe Krycer and Sara Gold, the president of JNF Victoria, to unveil the plaque honoring the sponsors of the biofilter project. "KKL-JNF, JNF Gold Patrons Australia, Monash University and the Kfar Saba Municipality, all have an ulterior motive in promoting this project – achieving sustainability," Joe Krycer noted. "This is a true partnership, and we are privileged and proud to help make this country what we want it to be."
Sara Gold: "I remember meeting the mayor of Kfar Saba here three years ago and speaking about this idea. We can now say that the biofilter has proved itself. I would also like to mention Yaron's mentors at Monash University, Professor Ana Deletic and Professor Tony Wong, who have given unselfishly of their time and knowledge and helped make this idea into a reality."
Joe raised a toast in honor of the occasion, noting that water is the source of life, "so it's more than appropriate to say lehayim – to life – at such an occasion."
Helen Shardey, who describes herself as "an ambassador at large for JNF", led the Gold Patrons mission together with Sara Gold: "I first came to Israel in 1996, and visited the Arava desert. That's where I first fell in love with KKL-JNF, when I understood the role the organization plays in settling the Negev. Our trip has been very intense, and we've seen amazing things, from the north to the south. I would say that one of the things we've come to realize from this trip in general, and from the biofilter in particular, is that KKL-JNF is not just about trees and water. Bottom line, KKL-JNF is about people."
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