From Black to Green – Reducing Pollution

January 2016-4

January 2016


Making the Negev bloom and transforming it into a fertile agriculture region was primarily the result of Israel's ability to transport fresh water from the north to the southern desert wilderness. But in this country, located on the desert’s edge, with many long droughts and fresh water a scarce and precious resource, a creative solution was required. It came in the form of wastewater treatment – purifying and filtering it to make it usable again. Israel today is the world leader in using treated wastewater for agriculture: 70% of the water used to irrigate Negev crops originates as wastewater in the Dan region, Israel's largest metropolis. The Shafdan water treatment plant, the largest in the Middle East and among the largest in the world, treats about 40% of Israel's wastewater — 350 thousand cubic meters of sewage produced by 2.5 million inhabitants and 1,700 factories.


Shafdan’s ability to bring the water up to high quality irrigation standards depends upon the quality of the wastewater reaching it. In recent years stricter water standards have been set for factories, defining the permissible quality and quantity of effluents. Yet, despite the heavy fines imposed for deviating from these standards many factories still fail to meet them, resulting in significant levels of pollution in wastewater, making it unsuitable for irrigation, causing environmental damage, waste and significant treatment costs.


For the last two years, the Council for a Beautiful Israel, which prefers education and advocacy to punitive actions, has been running a dedicated information campaign among industrial polluters, meant to guide them toward more efficient and environmentally friendly operating procedures in meeting their legal responsibilities and reducing wastewater pollution. A report created as part of the program analyzed the flow of wastewater per industrial sector. It used a straightforward system to rank factories by their level of pollution. The latest annual report was published recently and we are now setting out to visit the offending factories. The CBI team, with its training supervisor and professional wastewater advisor, reviews the factories’ wastewater disposal policies and guides them in adopting alternative approaches. In many cases, pollution can be avoided by simply adopting new methods, without the need to invest in replacing or purchasing new equipment. The factories we visit are grateful for the assistance given to them and for the reduction of penalties.