Tel Aviv's Yarkon River Sees Drop in Pollution After New Purification Plant Opens

The new plant channels more highly purified waste water into the river, causing an improvement in water quality and a renewal of animal life

The Yarkon River, Tel Aviv, 2018.
Meged Gozani

Contamination levels in the Yarkon River are finally in decline after four years of steadily increasing pollution thanks to the channeling of more highly purified waste water into the river after a new purification plant began operating this month.

Over the past four years, poorly purified sewage that accumulated in the Sharon Plain, in southeast Israel, was channeled into the Yarkon river, causing sanitation issues and killing wildlife. The Water Authority issued a permit to channel the waste water into the Yarkon to prevent damage in other areas.

More than a year ago, the Water Authority began pressuring the agencies responsible for construction of the new purification plant, including the local water corporation, over delays in completion. The pressure sped up construction and the plant has gone into "trial operation."

“There has already been a significant improvement in the quality of the waste water flowing into the Yarkon,” the head of the Water Authority, Giora Shaham, said, adding that work has started on a reservoir to eventually store the purified waste water.

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Tests by the Environmental Protection Ministry in the area shortly after the purification plant went into operation indicated significant improvement in the quality of the waste water flowing into the Yarkon. The Yarkon River Authority says that the results must be followed up over time, to ensure that the new facility is indeed channeling waste water of a suitable quality to effectively rehabilitate the river.

Most of the water now flowing through the Yarkon is purified waste from the cities of Kfar Sava, Hod Hasharon and Ramat Hasharon. Only upstream does the water come from natural sources. The more highly purified water has already caused a renewal of animal life in the river.

After the reservoir is completed, some of the water might be used for irrigation rather than channeled into the river.

The Sorek stream, where waste water from the greater Tel Aviv area and the Sefdan purification plant is channeled, has also seen improvements in water quality. Waste water had been polluting the stream and endangering beaches, but recent improvements at the Shefdan plant mean less waste water has been flowing to the stream and the water can be used to irrigate fields in the Negev.