Most Palestinian Sewage in West Bank Untreated, Contaminating Water Along Green Line

According to a report by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, a lack of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation has impeded solutions to this problem.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Almost 90 percent of sewage from Palestinian towns in the West Bank flows into the environment untreated, contaminating the groundwater and 162 kilometers of streams, according to a report prepared by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority. A lack of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation has impeded solutions to this problem.

The report, prepared for the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Civil Administration in the West Bank, is based on water samples taken from various locales in 2012. It found that some 50 million cubic meters of sewage flow into the environment from Palestinian towns every year. Only 5 million cubic meters go to treatment plants, some of which are substandard. This affects Israel as well as the West Bank, since the polluted streams flow into Israel.

The city of Nablus exemplifies the problem. It has 126,000 residents, as well as many olive presses that produce extremely toxic wastes. It has no treatment plant ‏(though one is now being built‏), so most of the waste goes into the Nablus Stream. From there, about a third seeps into the groundwater of the mountain aquifer, a major source of drinking water for both Palestinians and Israelis. The rest flows into the Alexander Stream in Israel.

Tul Karm’s waste treatment plant broke down last week, as it does several times a year, sending untreated sewage into the Te’enim Stream, and from there to Israel.
“This is an area in which we invested great effort cleaning up and repairing damage caused during the winter,” said Nissim Almon, head of the Sharon Drainage Authority. “Now all that work is gone.”

But the worst problem, according to the report, is Hebron, which has nearly 170,000 inhabitants. Its waste includes toxic runoff from industries including stonecutting and leatherworking. More than 80 of the city’s 100 stone-cutting plants send their waste into pirate drainage pools, from which it flows into the Hebron Stream and then to Israel. Waste from the Hebron area alone has contaminated around 43 kilometers of streams.

Jewish settlements also contribute to the problem: 13 percent of their sewage goes into the environment rather than to treatment plants.

Israel has tried to cope with the problem by building treatment plants near the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank and treating the contaminated water once it enters Israel. But the facility built to treat the Hebron Stream − the most polluted of all − can’t handle the volume of waste it receives. Contaminated water reaches nearby communities, emitting a stench and attracting mosquitoes.

Attempts at Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on this issue have largely gone nowhere, mainly because the Palestinian Authority refuses to cooperate with the settlements. Thus it refused to connect Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank to an Israeli sewage line because the line also serves several settlements. It also nixed a proposed treatment plant that would serve both Palestinian towns and the settlement of Ariel.

Sewage flowing into the Alexander Stream.Credit: Nimrod Glickman

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Karolina Bielowka.

'My Uncle Told Me, ‘Go on the Trip of Your Life, Go Dig in Israel.’ So I Did'

The replica ship, 'Ma’agan Mikhael II,' sailing from Haifa to Acre in northern Israel.

Replica of 2,400-year-old Ship Solves Ancient Mediterranean Mystery

File photo: Bus operated by Kavim company.

Ultra-Orthodox Extremists Assault Woman for Sitting at Front of Jerusalem Bus