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One of Israel's largest reserves of drinking water is under threat as industrial pollution continues to trickle into groundwater in the coastal aquifer. According to the latest data released by the Water Authority, 4.1 billion cubic meters of water in the aquifer has already been polluted - 10% of its total volume. As of today, the government has not allocated funds to treat the problem.

The findings were presented last week by the head of the authority's water quality department, Sarah Elhanani, during a special meeting of environmental specialists on potential changes in legislation to stop ground and groundwater pollution.

The move to alter the relevant legislation, initiated by Adam Teva V'din (the Israel Union for Environmental Defense ), is being pushed in the Knesset by the Environmental Protection Ministry, with a special governmental committee currently fleshing out the final details of the bill.

Elhanani said at the meeting that the Gush Dan metropolitan area has a particularly large number of pollution hot spots, caused mainly by past industrial activity.

The plants and factories themselves are long gone, but the pollution they produced continues to seep into the ground and taint the aquifer.

Key points include Ramat Hasharon (where Israel Military Industries is headquartered ), the Ayalon Highway (alongside which polluting plants operated for many years ) and the Holon industrial area. Dozens of drinking water wells have already been closed in these areas.

No funding has yet been found to treat the already polluted water at the coastal aquifer, one of Israel's three main sources of drinking water.

"We wanted to run an experimental project in Ramat Hasharon to treat the pollution there, but we couldn't even secure the budget for that," said Elhanani. "There are arguments about who's responsible for the pollution and who should be responsible for treating it."

The Environmental Protection Ministry's head of ground pollution, Dr. Yael Mason, also attended the meeting and estimated the cost of treatment at more than NIS 8 billion.

But the same process, she clarified, would make it possible to build on the cleaned land and prevent the need to treat polluted water in the future, thus saving the taxpayer more than the cleaning costs.