Most Polluted River in Israel and West Bank to Stay Filthy Because of Government Vacillation

Untreated sewage from both Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and nearby Palestinian villages has flowed into the Kidron for years. Agencies responsible for cleaning it up can't decide what to do.

Moshe Gilad

Nahal Kidron, the most polluted waterway in either Israel or the West Bank, will apparently continue to hold that title, because the agencies responsible for cleaning it up haven’t been able to agree on what should be done to solve the problem.

Untreated sewage from both Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and nearby Palestinian villages has flowed into the Kidron for years. The polluted water eventually flows into a reservoir, where, after undergoing treatment, it is sent by pipeline to irrigate date groves belonging to Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley.

After despairing of reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on treating the sewage before it reached the Kidron, the relevant Israeli agencies decided to deal with the problem on their own, even though some of the necessary activity must be carried out in the West Bank. But the two agencies – the Water Authority and Hagihon, Jerusalem’s municipal water and sewage corporation – have different ideas on how to solve the problem.

Hagihon recently announced that it plans to build a station that will pump some of the sewage from the Kidron and pipe it to a treatment plant in west Jerusalem. The pumping station, incidentally, is also needed to enable the planned construction of 1,800 apartments in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona.

Hagihon also plans to build a treatment plant by the Kidron itself. Finally, it plans to send some of the sewage to a third treatment plant to be built near Nahal Og, located in the West Bank east of Jerusalem. To transport the sewage to this plant, it would build a conduit along the slopes of Mount Scopus.

But the Water Authority thinks the pumping station won’t solve the Kidron’s sewage problem, and therefore, it sees no reason to waste money on it. Instead, it advocates a single large treatment plant by the Kidron, which it says would take four years to build and would make the pumping station unnecessary.

On Monday, representatives of the Water Authority and Hagihon met with representatives of several environmental organizations to discuss the issue. One of the green groups, Zalul, issued a statement afterward warning that if the agencies continue dragging their feet on the pollution problem, it will seek a court order to force them to take action.

“We can’t tolerate a situation in which the various agencies are sabotaging each other’s work at the expense of the public and the environment,” the statement said.