Israel Approves New Treatment Plan for Polluted Yarkon River

The Yarkon is the largest river in Israel that flows into the Mediterranean; a rehab plan designed by the Water Authority is set to save it from running out of natural water resources

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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A man fishing at Israel's Yarkon River.
A man fishing at Israel's Yarkon River.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

A project to rehabilitate the Yarkon River is approaching its final stage, after the Israel Water Authority approved the construction of facilities that will allow additional purified wastewater to flow into the river, and then be used for irrigation farther downstream.

The Yarkon is the largest river in Israel that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. But very few of its natural sources of water remain. Most have been diverted into the national water supply. Moreover, large quantities of water have been pumped from it for years for agricultural use.

The rehabilitation plan was approved around 15 years ago, and all but the last phase has been carried out.

In terms of water quality, the Yarkon River is divided into three parts. The eastern section, from the Nofarim Pool, near the city of Rosh Ha’ayin, to Nahal Kana, near the town of Hod Hasharon, is now fed by natural water sources. The central section, from Nahal Kaneh to the Seven Mills site in Tel Aviv’s Ganei Yehoshua park, near the Ayalon Highway, is fed by treated sewage. But in the western section, which runs from Seven Mills to the sea, a large amount of seawater still enters during flood tides.

In recent years, the quantity of fresh water in the river has risen a bit and the central section is being fed by higher-quality treated sewage. But farmers still pump water from the river.

One of the goals of the rehabilitation plan is to let all the treated sewage flow straight through to Seven Mills and then put it through an additional purification process, while allowing only this retreated water to be used for agriculture. That would guarantee the river a fixed baseline amount of water flowing through it (excluding any additions from rainfall), and this water could then be recycled.

The water authority recently granted the Mekorot Water Company permission to build a new pumping station at the Seven Mills site, as well as a nearby purification plant to which the pumped water will be sent. The goal is to purify the water to a level that will allow it to be used to water the grass and other vegetation in Ganei Yehoshua and other parks in the vicinity. The rest of the treated water will be used for agricultural irrigation in the Ramat Hasharon region.

Once the project is completed, Mekorot will treat 13 million cubic meters of water from the Yarkon every year and recycling it for irrigation. To this end, it will lay about 40 kilometers of pipeline and build reservoirs and pumping stations.

At the same time, farmers will stop pumping water directly from the river, since they will be able to get higher-quality treated water from Mekorot instead.

The quality of treated water in the Yarkon has risen in recent years as a result of improvements to treatment plants. But over the past two years, this improvement has been partially offset by an influx of low-quality treated sewage from a purification plant in the southern Sharon region. Only after this plant is expanded and upgraded will the flow of this sewage, which degrades the quality of the river’s water, end.

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