Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Quality in Israel

Springs are monitored for water quality. Photo: Sharon Shlomo.
Springs are monitored for water quality. Photo: Sharon Shlomo.

Water quality in Israel has been declining in recent decades due to a decrease in rainfall, increase in population, improper run-off and sewage treatment, and overuse of natural resources. The Coastal Aquifer and the Jordan River are heavily polluted with saline water as well as pollutants such as nitrates from sewage and run-off. This increases the cost for consumers because the water needs additional treatment before it is safe to drink. As all water resources are shared, improper wastewater treatment in the West Bank is a major contributor to water pollution in Israel. Due to Israeli military restrictions imposed in the West Bank, Palestinians have limited ability to improve wastewater treatment.

Sanitation and wastewater treatment

Wastewater in Israel is regulated in three ways:

  1. Prevention: includes maintenance of wastewater treatment plants; eliminating, or at least reducing, industrial contaminants from sewage and effluent; and enforcing laws and rules.
  2. Monitoring: involves assessing groundwater conditions and measuring groundwater quality. A highly developed monitoring network helps detect early signs of groundwater pollution.
  3. Remediation: provides instructions on how to address pollution.

In 2012, approximately 95% of the population in Israel was connected to the sewerage network. The population collectively produces around 507 MCM/yr of sewage, of which 468 MCM/yr is treated and 400 MCM/yr is reused for irrigation.[1]

Environmental and health risks

In 2014, 199 government-owned wells were closed due to pollution by nitrate, chloride and bacteria, among others. Most well closures took place in the area of the Coastal Aquifer, where water in 30% of the wells was affected by industrial pollution.[2] The ongoing pollution and overuse of the Coastal Aquifer is a serious environmental issue.  The loss of this major resource could have a significant effect on the country’s water security. Israel’s Water Authority has developed a master plan, which aims to restore the environment and ensure the continuous availability of high-quality drinking water.[3]

[1] Israel Water Authority, 2015. Wastewater & Effluents in Israel: Monitoring and Prevention of Water Pollution.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.