The defense establishment has begun purifying sewage at military bases in the Negev so that it can be used as a source of water for parks in the region. Work to purify sewage at the Nevatim air force base is at an advanced stage, and the water will eventually irrigate a large park to be created near Be'er Sheva.

Wastewater from many Israel Defense Force bases has for years been a source of contamination after being channeled into wadis or not properly purified, and some of the larger bases have begun to deal with the problem. Nevatim, for example, built a plant to purify both its wastewater and that of the nearby Bedouin community of Arara, according to Oded Galili, head of infrastructure and environmental protection in the Defense Ministry.

The facility, which was built with a contribution of NIS 7.5 million from the Jewish National Fund in the United States, will soon be purifying sewage from the Nevatim base that is now in oxygenation pools.

At first the water produced by the plant was not sufficiently pure for use in irrigation, but improvements have been made and the plant will soon be piping purified water to a reservoir operated by agricultural communities in the area. From there it will go to a large park to be established near Be'er Sheva.

According to Galili, not all the homes in Arara are hooked up to the sewerage system because of lack of funding. "Inside the base, which is a huge area, the pipe system alone cost NIS 10 million," he said.

At the Ramon air force base, wastewater is also being purified by means of a constructed wetland system, in which plants act as biofilters. The Health Ministry recently gave the Ramon base the go-ahead to irrigate a park with the purified water, Galili said.

The Defense Ministry, in cooperation with the Water Authority and area communities, wants to use the purified wastewater to irrigate agricultural products instead of leaving it in pools to evaporate, but so far demand has been low.