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The first rains that fell in Israel in October were plentiful and brought a sigh of relief after the hot summer and the years of drought Israel has been experiencing. However, even if this winter brings above average precipitation, as experts expect, Israel's water crisis is far from over, as we are dealing with a huge deficit created by over-pumping and a lack of cohesive water policy over recent years. Israel's underground water aquifers are in danger of becoming unfit for use and Lake Kinneret continues to sink to unsustainable levels. As of mid-November, the water level of Lake Kinneret was minus 214.29 meters below sea level, which means that the lake needs five and a half meters to reach its maximum level! This seems like an impossible feat, even if the present winter fulfills the optimistic expectations.
In response to this critical situation, KKL-JNF has put water management at the top of its priority list. In addition to building reservoirs to store recycled effluents and harvest floodwaters, KKL-JNF is also involved in new, state-of-the-art projects that are receiving international attention. In January 2010, the second annual Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium will be held in Jerusalem. Although the scale of water is very different between Manitoba and Israel, there are several common elements. Israel is recognized as a world leader in managing scarce water resources, recycling and re-using water, including wastewater. The event will be hosted by KKL-JNF, focusing on water management in the north of Israel around Lake Kinneret and the Hula Valley. Ten scientists and another five people from Manitoba will be participating, with a similar number from Israel and observers from JNF Canada.
As winter 2009-2010 begins, KKL-JNF continues to build new reservoirs throughout the country, with the help of its supporters worldwide, in addition to renovating older reservoirs and enlarging them. In the words of Moshe Cohen, director of KKL-JNF Projects Development, "the 204 water reservoirs that have been built by KKL-JNF to date, with more on the way, enable farmers to water their crops with purified sewage water. Farmers who stopped watering avocado plantations, fruit plantations and cotton fields have started growing water-intensive crops once again, thanks to the water we provide them.
"Water reservoir technology has really improved over the years, thanks to KKL-JNF research and development. This includes better sealing techniques, better reservoir engineering, prevention of dyke collapse, better maintenance and accessibility, hydraulic monitoring, and more. I would also mention our supporters abroad who fund many of these projects, who are, in fact, partners to projects that literally create life in dry, desolate regions. The sense of pride and accomplishment that supporters feel in making the desert bloom cements and strengthens their bond to Israel's productivity and creativity."
In the dry south, KKL-JNF, with the support of JNF UK, is renovating and enlarging two reservoirs in Masu'ot Yitzhak and Negba, one which stores floodwaters, the other recycled effluents. Another reservoir for recycled effluents is being built in Sderot, with the help of JNF USA, as are the Hatzerim and Shomriya reservoirs; Arye reservoir near Beersheva, which stores water purified to a new and higher degree, with the help of JNF Australia and Tifrah reservoir, with the help of JNF USA and JNF Australia. The Mitzpe Ramon reservoir is being built through JNF Holland.
In Israel's coastal and northern regions, the Afek reservoir for purified effluents is being renovated with the help of friends of KKL-JNF from Europe. Additional reservoirs for recycled effluents include the Sharona reservoir in Lower Galilee, one of the largest reservoirs in Israel, with the help of friends of KKL-JNF Europe; Mayan Tzvi B on the Carmel Beach with the help of KKL-JNF Italy; Mishmarot Reservoir in the Menashe region; and the enlarging of the Goma Reservoir near Kiryat Shemona on the northern border. The Mishmar Hasharon reservoir in Emek Hefer will store floodwaters and is being built with the help of JNF Australia, together with the Anot reservoir that will harvest floodwaters from the Judean Mountains, at present, in planning stages.
KKL-JNF reservoirs provide water for agriculture and releases freshwater sources for domestic use. In addition, purifying sewage water prevents it from contaminating freshwater sources. In the words of Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF World Chairman, "the reservoirs built by KKL-JNF to date supply approximately 50% of the water needs of Israel's agricultural sector, simultaneously providing a source of livelihood for those who live far away from Israel's central region."
As previously mentioned, KKL-JNF is at the forefront of innovative water technology. KKL-JNF recently approved an experimental research project for enriching underground water in Israel. The experiment involves purifying urban runoff water using Biofilter technology developed by an Israeli, Yaron Zinger, with a team of researchers from the faculty of civil engineering at Monash University, Australia. The Biofilter technology is an organic biological technology that is environmentally friendly. Runoff water undergoes a purification process using filters that consist of gravel mixed with plants upon which bacteria develop, that filter the water and remove metals and pollutants. The entire project was the initiative of JNF Victoria, Australia and is funded by friends of KKL-JNF Australia, who understand that the issue of improving the water economy in Israel is of prime importance. The Biofilter project has been successfully applied by the water company in Melbourne, which approved its application in various localities. In Israel, Stage One of the Biofilter project will be launched in Kfar Saba on Thursday, 19th November 2009.
The Yarkon River, which flows into the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv, has been a terrible environmental hazard for decades. Now, thanks to KKL-JNF's Constructed Wetlands project, supported by JNF Australia and is due to be completed by the end of 2009, the river will undergo a transformation. A renovated regional sewage purification plant will purify the water to the level suitable for agricultural use, after which it will undergo three purification stages: removal of nitrogen and oxygen, filtering through sand and sterilization through a UV system. The water will then undergo additional purification by means of the wetlands technique - a technique that purifies water using water vegetation.
This rehabilitation method, which is based upon vegetation, found international popularity during the past decades and differs slightly in its application from one place to another. The method is based upon the ability of water plants that grow in saturated areas to transfer oxygen into their root system and to exude other materials which, together, create an optimal ecosystem for micro-organisms capable of decomposing and consuming various pollutants. "The wetland will bring pure water to the Yarkon that is as clear as drinking water and will operate in much the same way as the kidneys filter blood in the human body," explained Dror Ben-Yoav, infrastructure advisor for the Hod HaSharon Municipality.
But rain and water are not only a matter for scientists and engineers. One crisp autumn night, Jerusalemites gathered in the courtyard of the German Colony's International Cultural and Community Center to participate in one of the most ancient ways of bringing rain - praying for it. Secular and religious, old and young, all shared in singing and reading poetry, ancient and modern, devoted to one theme - opening the gates of heaven so that the rain will fall. The evening was organized by Uri Kreizer and Rabbi Ruth Gan-Kagan of the Naveh Tehila community.
"I was looking for an idea that all the different sectors of Jerusalem's population could identify with," said Uri Kreizer, "and I thought that Israel's desperate need for water was the perfect focus. The enthusiastic response we received is very encouraging." The ceremony concluded with a prayer composed by Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov, the student of Rabbi Nahman of Breslau. "Have mercy on us, send rain in its appropriate time and do not stop the heavens from raining whenever the world is in need of it, as is written, "And I will give them rain in its season and the earth will give its produce and the trees of the field will give their fruit. And I will give peace to the land and you will lie down and not be afraid."
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