World Water Day 2010

Every year, 1,500 cubic kilometers of wastewater are produced globally. While waste and wastewater can be reused productively for energy and irrigation, it usually is not.

March 10, 2010 16:03

KKL. (photo credit: KKL)


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World Water Day 2010
KKL-JNF Helps Provide Clean Water for a Healthier World

March 22, 2010 is the date of World Water Day, an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. This year's theme is Clean Water for a Healthy World, and the goal of the worldwide campaign is to raise the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity.

Every year, 1,500 cubic kilometers of wastewater are produced globally. While waste and wastewater can be reused productively for energy and irrigation, it usually is not. In developing countries 80 percent of all waste is being discharged untreated, because of lack of regulations and resources. Population and industrial growth add new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water to the equation. Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake, still water pollution rarely warrants mention as a pressing issue.

KKL-JNF are at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies for recycling wastewater, desalination, water efficiency in arid regions, and much more. Rainfall in Israel is confined to the winter months, so any discussion on Israel's water economy must first review the state of the country's water supplies as winter comes to an end.

By any standard, Israel has been experiencing a very unusual winter this year. It has been characterized by short but powerful rains, followed by heat waves reminiscent of the spring or even summer. The winter of 2009-2010 has been the hottest winter in Israel since orderly temperature recording began in 1942. The recent month of February, for example, was one of the hottest in over 70 years, if not the hottest ever. Temperatures 4-5 degrees above the average were measured throughout the country. In the middle of the month, temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade were recorded in some parts of the country, 15 degrees above the average! At the same time, amounts of rain that were above average were also recorded this month, primarily in the central region and the south, where it is much needed. Children's costumes were soaked over the Purim holiday, when there were three straight days of very stormy weather.

It should be noted that these extreme fluctuations are exactly what scientists expected as a result of climate change caused by global warming. This trend is expected to continue over coming years, and environmental organizations like KKL-JNF are investing time and resources into devising adaptation mechanisms for the future. Flora and fauna are often adversely affected by these extreme changes. By way of example, visitors to KKL-JNF's annual Scarlet South Festival, where red anemones usually cover the western Negev, were disappointed not to find their favorite flower, which had been baffled by the untimely heat wave.

Mr. Pinhas Green, head of the Kinneret Authority, described this year's situation: "After five years in which there was only about 80-85% of the annual average rainfall, this year we have already received the annual average. Unfortunately, it looks like March and April will be pretty dry, although that is a situation that could still change. We had been hoping for 20% more than the average.

"The Kinneret's water level has risen by one and a half meters this winter, to its current level of -212.87, which is 13 centimeters above the lower red line. This is the part of the cup that is half-filled. The empty half of the cup is that we are still lacking about four meters for the Kinneret to be full, and unfortunately, there is no chance of that happening this year. 

"As a result of evaporation over the summer months, we lose about 250,000,000 cubic meters of water. The rate that the water level falls determines how much water the Water Authority decides to pump out of the Kinneret, which also depends on the situation in Israel's other two main water sources, the mountain aquifer and the coastal region aquifer. Taking everything into consideration, we would hope to end the coming summer at a water level of -213.60." Needless to say, all these statistics translate into one simple bottom line: Israel's water crisis is far from over, and solutions for providing its needs are desperately needed.

KKL-JNF Water Reservoirs – Israel's Fourth Aquifer
It has often been said that KKL-JNF is Israel's fourth aquifer, thanks to the water reservoirs it has built over the length and breadth of the country. To date, with the help of its friends throughout the world, KKL-JNF has built almost 220 reservoirs for recycled water and floodwater at both local and regional levels. The recycled water reservoirs are actually the final stage in a complex process for purifying sewage that includes breakdown of organic pollutants, removing suspended particles by sedimentation and then storing the recycled water in reservoirs from where it can be piped out for use in irrigation.

The Negev Desert is a good example of how reservoirs bring about a real change in the life of local residents. Due to a 40% cut in water allocations over the past few years, many farmers have been forced to stop working their fields. It is a sorry sight to drive through the Negev and see the abandoned fields that no one farms anymore. The recycled water will make it possible for these lands to once again bloom, along with fields that were not previously tilled. This is not only a contribution to Israel's water economy, but also the best way to free up valuable freshwater for drinking and domestic use rather than for agriculture. Recycled water costs 50% less than freshwater, which helps Negev farmers to make a living and to take full advantage of their land.

At the present time, with the help of friends of KKL-JNF from Australia, six new reservoirs are being built in the Negev, which will store purified effluents from Beersheba and nearby villages, along with sewage from the Palestinian Authority in the Hebron region. When the process of building the reservoirs is completed, all Beersheba and Ofakim's sewage will be recycled for agricultural use, thereby contributing both to agriculture and also to protecting the water quality of the aquifers that provide drinking water. In the words of Dror Karvani, the director of the Unit for Economic Development in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council: "The water reservoirs will make it possible to increase agricultural areas, providing a source of livelihood for hundreds of families in the Negev, including farmers and manufacturers of agricultural accessories."

Floods in the Negev and Arava
During the month of January, massive floods swept the Negev and Arava due to unprecedented rainfall. Alongside the breathtaking scenes of rushing water and roads turned into running rivers, heavy damage was caused to life and infrastructures. Floodwater reservoirs built by KKL-JNF in the area with the support of its friends from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Holland, Italy, Australia and other counties, were all filled to overflowing and several were badly damaged. A floodwater reservoir is built like an open reservoir and on its side has a spillway. When floods occur the dam fills up and the surplus water flows out via the spillway.  The challenge facing planners of water reservoirs in the Arava is to build them in a way that takes into account the vast economic costs against the off chance that they will be damaged by rare floods in the region. KKL-JNF workers surveyed the damage and prepared estimates of the costs of repairing these reservoirs that are so critical for life in the Negev. 

Cutting-edge Research
KKL-JNF's contribution towards helping alleviate Israel's water crisis is not, however, limited to building reservoirs. Cutting edge research is critical for efficient water usage. One example of this was the Second Annual Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium, which began on January 10, 2010, and was hosted by KKL-JNF.

KKL-JNF and the Province of Manitoba have been collaborating and sponsoring joint projects and research on water-related issues for a number of years. The conference focused on opportunities for mutual research, exchange of knowledge and promotion of joint research on matters relating to water resources management. Although the scale of water is very different between Manitoba and Israel, there are many elements in common. For example, despite the difference in size, Israel faces some of the same nutrient management issues in Lake Kinneret as Manitoba faces in Lake Winnipeg.

Theory into Action
Research must also be translated into action. With the help of KKL-JNF Australia, KKL-JNF launched the Kfar Saba biofilter project, which harvests storm water and treats polluted urban groundwater. The treated water will be injected into the groundwater aquifer, where it is stored. The water can then be recovered at any point along the aquifer for a variety of uses. The technology, which was developed by Monash University in Australia, is being tested in Kfar Saba for Israeli conditions, and if proven, could be applied for production of large quantities of fresh water in other urban areas. In this manner, KKL-JNF contributes to the recovery of one of the most valuable fresh water sources that Israel has.

Another example is the Dimona constructed wetlands project, which is being carried       out in this Negev town thanks to the support of friends of KKL-JNF from the USA. A constructed wetland is an ecological wastewater treatment facility that uses a series of pools, in which a variety of aquatic plants grow to simulate a natural wetland environment, to purify water. As the water flows from one pool to the other it undergoes biological purification, and the resulting water can be used to irrigate commercial short rotation forest. The project combines ecology (recycling wastewater) with research to eventually yield an economically feasible forestry venture.

No one can know for certain how this year's winter will end. Besides prayers for more rain before the winter is over, the people of Israel know that they can rely on KKL-JNF and its friends around the globe to do whatever is possible to provide the means and the knowledge to discover new and innovative ways of alleviating Israel's chronic water shortage.

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