Mekorot Officials: Not Enough Funding for Water Purification Projects

Budgetary shortfalls are threatening to undermine the national water company's program to make contaminated well water potable, company officials said.

Mekorot had hoped to use a coal-based decontamination process, but the Knesset has refused to provide adequate funding, officials said.

"If we don't receive a development budget, our programs will be stopped or canceled," said Danny Sofer, central region director at Mekorot.

Mekorot has one small decontamination facility in the heart of Jerusalem, close to Emek Hatzva'im. The facility, attached to a well, is designed to decontaminate groundwater polluted by the former Israel Military Industries plant in the area.

Yesterday, Mekorot officials met to discuss using coal-based water-treatment methods at the Jerusalem facility. Coal absorbs toxins in the groundwater, making it potable.

The new Jerusalem facility could reduce the amount of water transported from the coastal area, significantly lowering costs. Purification at the facility could also stop contamination from spreading to other wells.

This is part of a broader Mekorot project to purify water from polluted wells.

"We have a program to revive more than 100 polluted wells in the central area and Jerusalem," said Sofer. "This is a significant amount of water that will allow us to improve our pumping, particularly during droughts."

These projects come with a cost, he added.

The Knesset has yet to authorize an increase in water rates, which would fund the developments in water treatment and enable essential steps to address the drought.

Along the outskirts of Moshav Beit Arif, near the central Israel town of Shoham, Mekorot authorities are studying another serious problem - the proximity of residential areas to wells. The moshav has a well with high-quality water, but the Health Ministry prohibited using it, due to concerns that fertilizers, pesticides and sewage from the moshav might enter the groundwater.

The drought, however, has forced ministry officials to show flexibility. Mekorot authorities were allowed to use the well, but on the condition that the water be monitored for contamination. Mekorot also intends to revive dozens of wells with high sulfide levels, by filtering the water with coal.