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Has Israel cleaned the pollution from its streams?

CM 29/04/2021 2


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Israel has embarked on major river rehabilitation efforts in recent years, after the country’s chronic river and stream pollution threatened public health. Yet, high concentrations of bacteria in Israel’s northern streams (Snir, Iyun, Banias) and the Jordan River were reported by The Nature and Parks Authority just last month. With the start of Israel’s scorching summer season, many are looking to escape the heat by taking a dip in the water, but has the country managed to restore the streams for safe swimming and water activities? 
Here’s what you should know about Israel’s rivers and streams:
The decision to combat river and stream contamination came in the 1960s-70s when the northern streams flowing into Lake Kinneret, Israel’s main drinking water source at the time, endangered the lake’s water quality, Dr. Doron Markel, the Chief Scientist of Keren Keyemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) explained. 
Then again in 1997, the Maccabiah Tragedy brought the same dangers to light when a fallen bridge tossed 373 athletes into the dangerously sewage-and-pesticide-filled Yarkon River, killing four and injuring 69. 
Since then, the country has researched, monitored, and addressed the primary pollutants and factors in Israel’s streams: sewage, animal waste, agricultural drainage, and summer droughts.
The first issue Israel tackled was wastewater treatment. Instead of dumping raw sewage into the streams, KKL-JNF built 230 reservoirs to treat and store it in the winter months and provide the agricultural industry (55% of Israel’s water consumption, according to Knesset statistics) with the water it needs during the summer drought.
“Israel is the leading country in treating wastewater,” Markel told The Jerusalem Post. “Over 90% of sewage is treated,” he added.

This brilliant solution, Markel explained, eliminates sewage release in streams, saves precious drinking water from being wasted on agriculture, and allows for more farming in the summer. The reservoirs supplied enough water for as much as 40% of the agricultural demand, KKL-JNF published in 2020 (Markel and Schreiber).
While this may have temporarily solved the issue of sewage disposal, Israel’s “population is increasing and the volume of the reservoirs is not enough,” Markel said. 
In the winter, when the water is not needed for agriculture, some of the reservoirs overflow and treated sewage is released into the streams. This treated sewage, while adequate for irrigation, still contains some bacteria and viruses, deeming it a health hazard upon contact or ingestion, notified The Health Ministry.
The solution, according to Dalia Tal, the streams manager at Zalul (an environmental organization that helps protect Israel’s seas and streams), is to build more reservoirs, enough to store all of Israel’s wastewater during the winter. Tal added that there must also be a clear separation between the treated wastewater and streams, so if it’s used in agriculture, it won’t make its way into fresh water sources. 
Markel concurred with Tal’s solution and verified KKL-JNF’s intention to continue constructing more reservoirs.
Tal noted however that occasional pollution from Lebanon enters the streams, presenting another challenge in wastewater treatment.
Animal Waste
Sewage is not the only issue Israel needed to deal with, though. Last year, The Nature and Parks Authority warned Israelis not to enter northern streams after 652 people were suspected of contracting Leptospirosis; 152 were hospitalized with the bacterial disease. Leptospirosis, which is transferred from animals to humans (in this case through cattle drinking and then excreting in the streams), can cause pulmonary bleeding, meningitis and even death if left untreated, The Nature and Parks Authority warned.
“It’s lovely to see cows roaming about in the country but their waste enters the streams,” Tal told The Jerusalem Post. Their feces can carry diseases like leptospirosis and can infect those entering the contaminated water. 
Tal asserted that the country must “distance the cows from the water,” in order to avoid future outbreaks and pollution and Markel agreed.
Indeed, that is what Israel has done. In March 2019, The Nature and Parks Authority announced a plan to develop water troughs for cows, so they would no longer need to enter the streams to drink. The organization also said it would test northern streams more frequently, organize a monitoring system for diseases in wild animals, and vaccinate livestock.
“Israel is moving away from the state of a third world country where cattle and sheep live on the same water that people later drink and bathe in,” CEO of The Nature and Parks Authority, Shaul Goldstein said of the plan.
Agricultural Runoff
While Israel has tackled sewage and animal waste, there is another contaminant that threatens the purity of the streams. Agricultural runoff can bring pesticides and herbicides to the water. Organic farming and constructed wetlands that naturally treat wastewater are potential solutions, Markel mentioned, but they are difficult to implement on a large scale.
Summer Drought
Another issue is that the pollution oftentimes becomes more problematic in the summer months, Tal explained. The lack of rainfall naturally slows or stops the stream’s flow, while many stream water sources are artificially blocked and redirected for the country’s water consumption needs. This allows for higher concentrations of pollutants to affect lower volumes of water, that when stagnant or slow-flowing can easily fester. Hotter water temperatures and an increase in people or animal populations in the water also make for excellent disease breeding ground.
Health Consensus 
Given that highly populated areas, such as the central district, release more treated wastewater and use up more of the freshwater sources, pollution can be dangerous in the summer months.
“Someone who wants to protect their health shouldn’t enter,” Tal warned of the country’s central streams.
However, “the northern streams are considered clean,” she conceded. Northern stream rehabilitation efforts in sewage disposal, animal waste, and agriculture have progressed more than the central district, as they have been in the works for over 50 years to ensure the Kinneret drinking water remains clean. 
Additionally, most streams in the north flow year-round and many of their sources remain unblocked. There is also a smaller population in the north, meaning less wastewater and contaminants. 
It is safe for Israelis to enter northern streams, assuming they remain updated by the Environmental Protection Ministry and The Nature and Parks Authority of the stream’s status, Tal informed The Jerusalem Post. She recommended Nahal Kziv as the safest and most suitable option for summer swimming.

For those willing to take the dive, it seems that with proper caution, Israel’s northern waters can be both inviting and safe for summer fun.   Source: Jerusalem Post

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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