(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
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.