Dry stream 298 88.
(photo credit: Reuven Rosenfelder)
It is time to guarantee Israel's streams run with fresh water again instead of just sewage, Hillel Glazman, director of the Streams Monitoring Department at the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The Water Authority is creating a new plan for the water economy and with the advent of the desalination era, it is time nature resumed its position as a major recipient of water, he declared.
Today, Israel's streams are either a fraction of their former size or are bereft of fresh water altogether. Instead, sewage runs through their channels, Glazman said.
"Streams running with sewage next to residential neighborhoods stink, bring mosquitoes and deprive citizens of their ability to enjoy the stream at all," he said, adding that as less fresh water flows, the ecosystem of the stream begins to die.
"Not just the fish in the streams, or the insects in them, but the wildlife that drinks from the stream, the birds which eat the insects in the stream, the tress that line its shores but die because of a lack of fresh water," Glazman said.
Lack of attractive streams also affects the tourism industry and the tourist projects centered on them, he continued.
Even though Israel is facing its worst water crisis in history, according to Glazman, the Water Authority is working on a plan and desalination is really beginning to take off.
"That means that there will be more water and less of a complete dependence on rainfall. More of the water from natural sources could be left to raise the streams' water levels instead of being siphoned off for consumption."
In 2004, nature was added as an entitled recipient of water, but the arid years since have prevented it from receiving anywhere near its full allocation of 50 million cubic meters per year. At present, nature gets 6 million cu.m. per year. That is but a fraction of what would be needed to rehabilitate Israel's network of streams, according to Glazman.
Glazman's point is simple - rather than allocating water to streams and nature reserves, it should be left to flow from wells and springs as it once did. More fresh water would flush away the sewage and make the dependent ecosystems flourish.
The current policy is one of damage control - the NPA brings a list of sites to the Water Authority which are in danger of total eradication and then is allocated the bare minimum to keep it alive, Glazman explained.
While water began to be siphoned off in 1964 when the National Water Carrier was completed, it wasn't enough to seriously harm nature. It has only been in the last 20 years, since the '80s, that demand has increased so much that nature has not been able to cope with the lack of water.
"The population grew from three to four million in the '80s to around seven million today. We also signed agreements to give water to the Palestinian Authority and to Jordan, so demand has grown considerably. As a result, the country has diverted more and more water away from the streams."
The Yarkon and the Kishon Streams are perhaps the most notorious in terms of pollution, but nearly every stream is polluted. Only the Alligators Stream is not yet polluted, but is in danger of becoming so, Glazman warned.
Calling the situation "absurd," Glazman cited the Betset Stream as an example.
"The Betset Stream was in such bad shape that we requested specific help in saving it. So a pipe was put in to pump in the bare minimum. Understand the absurdity: the stream's sources are being pumped away for human consumption, so they bring in a pipe instead.
"I don't want a pipe. I want the spring at the source of the stream. The other difference, besides the obvious one, between a pipe and a spring is that a pipe has a knob. Someone could decide to turn off that water at any moment," he said.
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