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International World Water Day is held annually on March 22, focusing attention on the importance of fresh water and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources. The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. In 2009, the focus of World Water Day will be on trans-boundary waters: sharing water and sharing opportunities.
During recent years Israel's water crisis has been gradually worsening. There are several reasons for the water shortage: Israel is a semi-arid region with few sources of water; the population is growing rapidly; the standard of living with its accompanying consumption of water per capita is rising; and there have been several consecutive years of drought.
KKL-JNF has been working for many years to support the Israeli water economy through building and developing alternative sources of water which save the economy millions of shekels each year, promoting agriculture in Israel and saving palatable drinking water.
KKL-JNF has initiated several far-reaching projects, to save water.
Recycled Water Reservoirs are a wise combination solution - preventing pollution, saving water and providing farmers with an inexpensive source of irrigation.
Floodwater Reservoirs: KKL-JNF harnesses floodwater to support Israeli farmers when it sometimes pours and floods in the desert
River and Spring Rehabilitation: Rivers that were formerly polluted are now the focus of healthy ecosystems around the river, its surroundings and its flora and fauna. KKL-JNF restores springs and the agricultural terraces around them.
Stream Channel Restoration and Regulation: KKL-JNF maintains healthy rivers through repairing erosion damage, preventing pollution and regulating floodwater flow.
Constructed Wetlands are nature's "sewage treatment plants" and KKL-JNF imitates Nature by developing artificial wetlands that purify water, attract wildlife and in their wake bring tourists and Nature-lovers.
Water Consumption in Israel
The distribution of the consumption of water in Israel is as follows: 7% for industrial use, 38% for household use and 55% for agriculture. According to data from the Mekorot Company, the average daily household rate of consumption in Israel ranges from100-230 liters per capita, an increase of 23.3% over the previous decade. Of the general water consumption the most significant increase has been in household consumption - an increase of 95% whilst industrial use has increased by only 4.3% and agricultural use has actually decreased by 9.4% due to the decrease in water allotment for agriculture. Increased demand for water stems from:- the increase in population; a higher standard of living; increased consumption of Arab and Bedouin sectors owing to increased standards of living; and increased supply of water pumped from Israel to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan as part of state agreements.
Israel's Sources of Water
Israel's sources of water include underground water from the mountain and coastal plain aquifers, ground water from Lake Kinneret, rivers, lakes, flood waters and alternate water. Underground water is the largest reserve of water in the country. Approximately two-thirds of the water in Israel originates from underground water that remains stored naturally underground and is pumped from wells or springs.
The Coastal Aquifer
The coastal aquifer extends along the Mediterranean coastline - from Caesarea southward. The water in this underground aquifer is stored in land which is sand, sandstone or gravel. The water in the coastal aquifer is extremely exposed to pollution for two reasons: The coastal aquifer is located under the most populated area in Israel. There are many settlements, factories, power stations, garbage dumps and even fields above it. All these factors produce pollutants that flow or seep into the underground water. Furthermore, over-pumping of underground water from the coastal aquifer causes seawater to penetrate the aquifer and causes salination of its underground water. During recent years many wells have been closed in the area because of pollution and salination of underground water.
The Mountain Aquifer
The mountain aquifer extends as an underground lake in the area of the mountains and the foothills from Zichron Yaakov in the north to Be'er Sheva in the south. The quality of underground water in the mountain aquifer is better than the coastal aquifer but it is also exposed to pollution since this area is mainly made up of severely cracked and hollow rocky land. Water permeates into the aquifer but pollutants do so as well, which spread rapidly within.
Surface Water Sources
The most important reservoir of surface water in Israel is Lake Kinneret. Water is pumped from the Kinneret and distributed throughout the country through the national carrier. There are other sources of surface water - springs, rivers, lakes and flood-waters but Israel is actually extremely poor in sources of surface water. It has no large rivers and of those it has, most are intermittent and completely dry throughout the year. Furthermore, some rivers that once did have clean water have dried up in the drought whilst others have become polluted and can no longer serve as sources of water.
Lake Kinneret is the lowest body of fresh water in the world at 231 meters below sea level and 46 meters deep at its lowest point. It provides one quarter of Israel's water. A century ago 20,000 people lived in the area of the Kinneret but today the population is approximately 300,000 and the level of pollution in the Kinneret has therefore risen significantly. During the five months of the Israeli summer approximately two million vacationers visit the Kinneret.
Pinhas Green, head of The Kinneret Authority, reveals that the water level in the Kinneret had been dropping continuously until December of 2008 after which there was a very slight rise from the black line and by mid-February it had risen by 30 centimeters. By mid-March the Kinneret rose another 60 centimeters following two heavy rainfalls. In all, from the beginning of this winter until today (March 17, 2009) the Kinneret has risen by only 90 centimeters, a relatively small rise for one season when the average winter season water level rise is 1.5 meters.
In 1988 the level of the Kinneret rose by only 28 centimeters throughout the winter season - the smallest rise in Israel's history. During 2001 the level of the Kinneret reached its lowest ever and the phrase "the black line" was coined.
Before summer the Water Authority must make an important decision after consulting with the Operations Commission on how much water to pump from the Kinneret during the coming months, considering the situation of the coastal and mountain aquifers. This decision will obviously affect the total management of the Israeli water economy, determining cutbacks, private irrigation and the cost of water for consumers.
Alternative Water Sources
The water shortage in Israel has resulted in use of alternate sources of water in addition to underground and surface water sources. There are three types of alternative water: sewage water that has been purified for irrigating crops, floodwater that is trapped by dams, and desalinated water. There are tremendous amounts of sewage water, floodwater, salt water and saline water in Israel that are not being optimally utilized. Storing this water and improving its quality using suitable technology will significantly increase the amount of available water.
KKL-JNF's 202 reservoirs store about 150 million cubic meters of water. Since each reservoir usually has two filling cycles, this means about 300 million cubic meters of water for agricultural usage. Now that freshwater quotas are being cut and orchards are being uprooted, this water is the hope for agriculture in the future.
Recycling Sewage Water
One of the solutions to the water shortage is to increase the use of purified sewage water. Two thirds of the sewage water in Israel is purified and used mainly for irrigating crops. Re-using this water after purification and improving its quality not only saves water but also decreases pollution of the environment. The percentage of recycling and re-using sewage water in Israel is among the highest in the world
The water crisis that Israel faces today has increased pressure on farmers to use alternative sources of water. Together with continued cutbacks in available quotas of water, there is a constant increase in the cost of drinking water, which pressures may become even more severe in the coming years. The reservoirs of sewage water that the KKL-JNF has build throughout the country make it easier for farmers and free palatable drinking water for use by the entire Israeli population.
For example, work has started on the new Sderot reservoir, to which sewage water will be diverted from the Shikma stream. This means that not only will the stream be restored, but also that polluted water will no longer seep through the ground into the underground aquifer. The restored stream will then become a tourist attraction. The reservoir near Sderot, will store purified effluents from Sderot and nearby kibbutzim, channeling the recycled water for agriculture. The project was enabled thanks to friends of JNF America. Meir Brukental, director of the Sderot Sewage Water Association said: "We are reaching a situation where we will be unable to irrigate existing agricultural crops, let alone to plant anything new. This reservoir, which is scheduled for completion in October 2009, will provide two million desperately needed cubic meters of water to the region."
Another example is Ma'ayan Tzvi water reservoir in the north of Israel providing twelve million cubic meters of purified effluents to irrigate local agricultural fields thereby alleviate the water shortage in Israel. This reservoir, along with its 'twin sister' and the sewage purification plant located next to it, brings triple gain: they collect the sewage of the Carmel beach communities, thereby averting pollution of the streams and the ocean; they provide water for agriculture for the farmers; and lastly, they harvest the floodwaters of Nahal Dalia, thus increasing the water in the reservoirs and improving its quality.
The dream of using seawater as an unlimited source of fresh water has been circulated for many years: desalination could make unlimited amounts of water available. The technology of desalinating seawater has existed for several years and there are already several desalination facilities in Israel. However, the difficulties lie in desalinating large quantities of water as, in Israel the main limitation is the cost. The process is extremely expensive and requires large amounts of energy that therefore will create air pollution and waste other natural resources. Nevertheless, owing to the present water crisis in Israel, it seems that more and more sea water will be desalinated in the future and this may become one of the solutions to the severe water shortage.
During the rainy season, Israelis flock to the Negev rivers to watch the magnificent sight of flash floods that suddenly fill dry riverbeds with tremendous volumes of water, carrying soil and vegetation with it. City streets, too, are often flooded after hard rain, causing injury to people and damage to property. Observing a flash flood from a safe distance is a fascinating experience, but despite the relatively high quality of floodwater, much is lost as it flows through the riverbeds to the seas or, in the case of the cities, into the municipal drainage system.
Catching floodwater and storing it, is another possible solution for enhancing the water economy in Israel but storing water is not a simple process. At a flash flood, the flow of water is extremely intense and sudden. Despite this, even in ancient times people would build dams in the river channels with reservoirs nearby to trap the floodwaters before diverting the water from these reservoirs for irrigating the fields.
Out of the 202 reservoirs that the KKL-JNF has built throughout the country with the help of contributions worldwide, 40 are reservoirs built specifically for trapping floodwaters in the north and south of the country, enabling life in the desert and the Arava.
Zuqim and Hatzeva Reservoirs: The original Zuqim reservoir in the central Arava was established thanks to friends of JNF Canada. The reservoir had been widened and enlarged with the help of The Sapphire Society, JNF America. A state-of-the-art pumping system had been installed to bring the water into the regional water-supply system. The enlarged reservoir has a capacity of 850,000 cubic meters of water entering from the floods that stream through the riverbeds periodically. At such times, Mekorot, the national water company, does supplementary work installing equipment required to mix water from the reservoir with local brackish water for agricultural purposes.
Hazeva Reservoir in the Arava Valley collects floodwaters flowing through Negev streams in winter, which water is used for the irrigation of nearby fields thus saving water that would otherwise be piped from the north or pumped from local wells. Surplus water is pumped into the aquifer to replenish dwindling groundwater.
Ami Shaham, Head of the Arava Drainage Authority says. "The Zuqim reservoir is one of five reservoirs along Nahal Ha'arava itself: "Eshet", "Zuqim", "Niqrot", "Hatzeva" and "Eidan". These are "overflow" reservoirs that water flows into during flooding. The first reservoir then fills up and surplus water spills out into the riverbed, flowing into the next reservoir. The reservoirs were built in the direction of the water flow from south to north. Every additional drop of water contributes to creating new fields and sources of livelihood, so that the youth will stay in the region and new people will be able to come. KKL-JNF is the Arava's hope for development and growth."
Betarim Floodwater Reservoir: Thanks to friends of KKL-JNF Switzerland, KKL-JNF will participate in building a 400,000-cubic meter floodwater reservoir to collect floodwater that flows into Nahal Betarim. This northern Negev reservoir will prevent flooding of the Be'er Sheva-Shoket highway and furthermore, it will not be sealed so that its surplus water can recharge the underground water. The reservoir is part of an ecological-tourist project where scenic landscaping is planned for a 14-square kilometer area to Shoket Junction that will include local plants and a scenic lookout through the woods overlooking the reservoir.
KKL-JNF reservoirs contribute to the water economy of Israel and bring life in the desert, great beauty to the scenery, provide a habitat for many birds and fish in ecological hubs and create an environment that delights the eyes and souls of local residents, farmers, hikers and all visitors. These blue pools make an economic-ecological-environmental contribution that can only be described as priceless.
For more information, please visit our website at www.kkl.org.il/eng or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org