Extension of Wastewater Treatment Plants

In 2011 96 % of the Israeli population was connected to an urban wastewater treatment system (Fig. 16.4). Most of the wastewater treatment plants are characterised by either secondary or tertiary treatment level. The water from tertiary treatment is unrestricted for irrigation uses. With the enlargement of the treatment capacities, new stringent quality parameters were introduced.

Fig. 16.3 National Water Carrier of Israel (Photo: Mekorot)

Fig. 16.4 Population connected to an urban wastewater treatment system, by type of treatment and level of treatment (Source: Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (2013a, p. 38))

From 2002 to 2013, Israel invested nearly 2.8 billion New Israel shekel (NIS) (approx. USD 734 million) in wastewater infrastructure and wastewater reclamation plants. Another 1.5 billion NIS (USD 393 million) will be invested in the near future. Not only were 100 water treatment plants built or upgraded, but a separate wastewater pipeline network, including a 90 km pipeline to the Negev, had to be built for the country (Israel Water Authority 2014a). In 2012, agriculture used 429 × 106 m3 of recycled wastewater (ibid.). For 2014, it was required that 50 % of the agricultural water uses should come from recycled wastewater; according to the National Water Plan, this share is supposed to rise to more than 90 % by 2050 (Israel Water Authority 2012b). The rest will flow back to nature.

Stringent effluent quality standards came into effect in 2010. The regulations set maximum levels for dissolved and suspended elements and compounds and for 36 other parameters regarding effluents (European Environment Agency 2014). They came into effect to minimise the risk of soil and groundwater contamination by the use of wastewater for irrigation.

Apparently there is a conflict of interest between agriculture and environmental protection about the use of treated wastewater effluents. In the summer of 2014, the Israel Water Authority did not permit the use of treated wastewater for the rehabilitation of the Kishon River in the Haifa area. The Ministry of Environmental Protection had to suspend further river rehabilitation plans because of the decision of the Israel Water Authority (Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection 2014). This example might also illustrate a lack of coherence between the river rehabilitation plans and the national water management plans issued by the Israel Water Authority.

Environmentalists have criticised the partial dumping of the remaining sludge into the Mediterranean. The sludge from the Shafdan sewage plant contributes at least 75 % and up to 98 % of the total load to the Israeli marine environment. It is planned that this source will be terminated by the end of 2015 (European Environment Agency 2014).

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