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Nature experts and other scientists and nature experts are feverishly trying to figure out what happened (and why) to the only source of clean water for the Kishon River. It seems to have disappeared.

The Sa'adia River, which was considered to be a pristine oasis of clean water surrounded by the filth and pollution that has marred the Kishon region, dried up quite rapidly in recent weeks.

One possibility being examined is that groundwater seeped into the stream as a result of the construction of the Carmel tunnel highway.

Until recently, the Sa'adia River was fed by the springs adjacent to Mount Carmel. The water was considered to be clean and of particularly high quality, said Prof. Avital Gazit of Tel Aviv University.

To back up her point, she noted the preservation of the original flora and fauna that flourish in the area.

"For a reason that has yet to be ascertained, the river began drying up quickly," Gazit said yesterday. "This is one of the last remnants of clean river water that is left in the coastal region."

According to Sharon Nissim of the Kishon River Authority, the Sa'adia helps maintain the local ecosystem.

Water experts are currently working on rehabilitating the river.

On Monday, the Society for the Protection of Nature requested that the Haifa municipality urgently investigate whether the construction of the Carmel tunnel road contributed to the drying up of springs and the river.

Carmelton, the contractor that is building the Carmel tunnel, said in response: "The project was built in cooperation with environmental officials. According to hydrologic data, this is the third time in the last 50 years that the Sa'adia spring has been impaired, and the last two times occurred well before the tunnels were built.

"The drying of the stream saddens us and we are helping in efforts to figure out the reasons."