Partnering Communities, Watersheds

Watershed map

Fifteen years ago, the Good Water Neighbor project struggled to identify 11 communities who would agree to work together. After less than a decade, the project expanded to include 28 communities of which 14 communities share the Jordan River/Dead Sea Basin, and 14 communities share the Mountain and Coastal Aquifers.

Today, the project has further expanded, using a watershed / basin approach, scaling up the project to include major cities and populations.  We are now focusing on 11 cross border watersheds; 6 Israeli – Palestinian shared watersheds (western side), 2 Israeli – Jordanian shared watersheds (eastern side) and 3 Jordanian – Palestinian shared watersheds (eastern side).

EcoPeace’s current communities and priority projects are listed below.

[For publications relevant to this project, click here]

Lower Jordan River/Dead Sea Basin:

The environmental and ecological values of the basin have declined drastically during the last sixty years. Large flows of untreated wastewater and saline water are discharged directly into the basin and substantial parts of the basin are inaccessible for the local inhabitants. Since the 1950’s the water from the river had been increasingly diverted by Israel, Syria and Jordan for domestic water supply and development of their agricultural sectors. Much due to competition over scarce water resources, conflict and unsustainable development practices the Jordan Valley is a poverty hotspot of the region.

As part of EcoPeace Middle East’s efforts to advocate for the rehabilitation of the river and development of the surrounding valley, EcoPeace partnered with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and Global Nature Fund (GNF) to devise a proposed Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley. The Master Plan was released in June 2015 following 3 years of joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian EU-funded research, led by the international Royal Haskoning DHV engineering consultancy firm. It comprises national plans for the Jordanian and Palestinian sides of the valley, incorporates a government-led Israeli Master Plan currently underway, that together create the first ever regional development plan for the valley. The Master Plan was developed around 7 strategic objectives: Pollution Control, Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation, Sustainable Agriculture, Jordan River Basin Governance, Ecological Rehabilitation, Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development, Urban and Infrastructure Development. These strategic objectives seek to promote peace, prosperity and security in the Jordan Valley and the adjacent regions.

EcoPeace is now working to promote the signing of a MoU between the governments of Jordan, Israel and Palestine, to create a Trust Fund to advance an agreed set of projects that would exemplify the benefits of advancing a Regional Master Plan for the Valley.

Northern Jordan Valley:

In addition to the Jordan River being heavily demised due to fresh water diversion and pollution as described above, the other side tributaries have also been negatively impacted. The Yarmuk, Arab and Ziglab wadis have all been dammed from the east, with flows reduced from the west and the Harod stream, due to fish farm production. Earlier research undertaken by EcoPeace has identified a loss of biodiversity around these streams of up to 50%.

EcoPeace aims to restore habitats, strengthen habitat connectivity through identifying ecological corridors and promote knowledge sharing between the local communities towards the restoration of the upper part of the Jordan River, with special focus on the upper stretch of the Jordan River and the Wadi Ziglab area. This initiative builds on the recommendations of the Regional NGO Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley 2015 which focuses on a number of interventions for the rehabilitation of the River Jordan.

Ecotourism, as identified by the NGO Regional Master Plan, is an under developed sector in the valley that could greatly contribute to the weak economy of the region and help promote its sustainable development. EcoPeace aims to further develop the Ajlun – Gilboa trail that would attract local and international tourists to experience a cross-cultural, authentic bio-regional experience.

This initiative builds on the EU supported Jordan Valley NGO Master Plan and the USAID supported Green Economy initiative project. It also seeks to strengthen a decade of investments by EcoPeace in the development of the SHE EcoPark. Specifically this initiative will build on the regional itineraries developed under the Green Economy initiative, where the relationships were developed with local businesses, tour guides and tour operators in order to promote ecotourism in this bioregion.

Deir Alla:

Solid waste management in Deir Alla lacks the necessary sanitary infrastructure for collection and disposal of its solid waste. The Deir Alla landfill site is situated only one kilometer east of the Jordan River. The landfill lacks electricity, water supply, service buildings, a site entrance, a control point, a service road, a perimeter fence and specialized equipment. Waste is widely spread, not covered and openly burned. There is no control of waste stability, layering or placement and with no lining leachate remains unmanaged and is released into the surrounding environment, seeping into groundwater and making its way into the Jordan River.

Furthermore, municipal waste is collected from only four main streets in the city resulting in serious waste issues throughout the rest of the city and the surrounding areas. In the winter, periodic floodwaters carry unknown quantities of waste from the environment into the river.

EcoPeace is working to improve solid waste management practices in the Deir-Alla area, improve sanitation and protect the environment. This initiative will help leverage funding to build a modern sanitary landfill and improve services provided by the municipality. We will also seek business partners to invest in waste recycling in Deir Alla and encourage solid waste separation, find safer and more efficient methods of waste transportation and promote community awareness and education on sustainable waste management.

Madabas Refugee Camp, Zara Maain:

The water network of Madaba refugee camp is completely dysfunctional due to the rusting of its steel piped network, resulting in a 60% water loss. Most residents of the camp are therefore not receiving water even on the one-day per week when the water is pumped by water authorities. Residents are relying on water tanks to meet their water needs causing a significant financial burden. In addition the camp has no sewage network, with sewage disposed through cesspits presenting another serious health hazard, and source of ground water, spring water contamination.

EcoPeace is working on attracting funding to build a new water and wastewater network for Madaba Refugee Camp.

Salt:

Al Magareeb Neighborhood is surrounded by four wadis with high natural and potential tourist value; Wadi Abu al Rada, Wadi Abu Diaeh, Wadi Abu Zama, and Wadi Hadi. A septic tank for wastewater treatment was adequate in the beginning but today totally fails the area׳s needs. Wastewater today flows in the main streets, is seeping into the ground water, and due to the high elevation and steep slopes — towards the Jordan Valley, polluting the wadis and springs. The sanitation situation poses health hazards to residents and is a source of pollution in the wadis down to the Jordan Valley.

EcoPeace supports local municipality and water authority efforts to solve the sanitation issues of the Al Magareeb Neighborhood, improve the overall management of water and the living conditions of residents, reduce disease concerns and promote area for nature tourism.

Auja:

Auja lacks a sewerage network. Residents use cesspits for wastewater disposal which threatens public health and causes groundwater pollution.

EcoPeace initiated a full scale demonstration of treated effluent reuse for agriculture through building a sewage collection system and WWTP for the town (if possible combined with the reuse of treated sewage from El Bira).

Jericho:

Winter rains can often lead to flooding of neighborhoods in Jericho. The Khedaiwi and Al-Qasab neighborhoods, in particular, are vulnerable to flooding because canals built in the past to protect the neighborhood have fallen into disrepair. This led to damage to homes and evacuation of residents. Proper functioning of the canal system would bring the flood water to reservoirs for storage and later use for agriculture. Jericho municipality included the need to repair the Al-Qasab canal as part of the Master plan for Jericho 2020 as prepared by a team of Italian experts.

EcoPeace wishes to rehabilitate the old and damaged canal in order to protect life and property for residents in the Khedaiwi and Al-Qasab neighborhoods in Jericho and increase the ability to store flood water for agricultural use.

Wadi Nar/Kidron Valley:

Tragically, Wadi Nar/Kidron Valley serves as a sewage conduit for the south-eastern part of Jerusalem, as well as for the eastern part of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. This includes the sewage that drains into the area by gravity, as well as some of the sewage that would naturally drain into the Og/Muqalek Basin located to the North East of Jerusalem which is transported to the basin via a collector. In addition, Ubeidiya, Abu Dis, Al Ezariya and some other small Palestinian communities also dump their sewage into the basin. The total discharge of untreated wastewater is estimated at about 15 MCM per year.

In addition to the health, environmental and economic costs associated with the mismanagement of this basin, for many of the Palestinian towns and villages in the basin, cesspits are still in use, often leading to sewage in the streets, presenting an additional health hazard to local residents.

EcoPeace advocates for a sustainable solution to the current situation in the valley that includes construction of a WWTP and needed sanitation networks in the Palestinian towns and villages in the basin and reuse the sewage of the basin for agriculture.

Southern Dead Sea:

To meet its economic needs, the area of South Ghour relies heavily on agriculture. The farmers mostly utilize manure from neighboring chicken and cow farms as fertilizer, which has proved to be problematic for the health of the local population. The use of unprocessed manure attracts house flies into the area that can carry diseases such as Typhoid and Child Diarrhea. According to the Health Department of South Ghour, each year, between the months of August and November alone, there are 250-300 reported cases of such diseases. Additionally, the decomposition of the manure often leads to infection of the plants through diseases, such as fungi. The house fly problem also negatively affects the Israeli side.

EcoPeace Model Farm initiative needs to reach out to a wider range of farmers and be scaled up to include a wider range of local issues. This would improve agriculture in South Ghour to a more productive level and decrease the use of hazardous methods of farming impacting negatively both Jordanian and Israeli communities.

Kishon-Muqataa Stream:

The city of Jenin is connected to a WWTP impaired by power shortages and in need of additional upgrades. The area of Marj bin Amer is not connected to any WWTP. As a result, poorly treated effluent, raw municipal sewage and agricultural runoff are polluting the stream and the underground water. On the Israeli side, near the Haifa Bay, the downstream area suffers from long lasting Israeli industrial pollution, and is currently being cleaned up and rehabilitated by the Israeli authorities at an estimated cost of 220 million NIS.

EcoPeace advocates for further upgrade and proper operation of the Jenin WWTP, a WWTP for the area of Marj bin Amer, utilizing the new Ram-On WWTP in order to prevent the further downstream pollution of the Kishon-Muqataa Stream and the use of all Palestinian treated effluents to irrigate Palestinian agriculture including the return of treated effluents from Ram-On.

EcoPeace supports cooperation over sanitation solutions between Gilboa RC, the city of Jenin and the villages of Marj Ibn Amer and lobbies for the signing of a MoU between the respective municipalities to transfer high quality treated effluent from the Ram-On WWTP to Palestinian farms. This will require the involvement of the IWA and the PWA. We are working to identify the upgrade needs of the Jenin WWTP through research and meetings with stakeholders and specialists and advocate for raising the needed funds and permits for the upgrade and initiation of the works as well as promoting knowledge sharing between Israeli and Palestinian farmers in relation to the use of effluent irrigation, exploring new ways of cooperation (i.e. a model farm) and expand the application of sustainable agriculture in the watershed.

Wadi Abu Nar/Hadera Stream:

The main sewage collection lines of the three villages of Baka Al Sharkiya, Barta’a, and Habla have been linked to the Israeli WWTP. This phase of the project was completed by UNDP, with the support of government of Japan (JICA) funds. The second phase of the project, which will connect the Nazlat community to the network, will also be carried out by UNDP, using Dutch Government funding. However, the households on the Palestinian side have yet to be linked to the main line and raw sewage continues to flow in the stream. This is due to a disagreement regarding the price to be paid for treating transboundary effluents. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as to the price to be paid for treating transboundary effluents between the Palestinian and Israeli water authorities has been under negotiations for close to two years. Without an agreement, the sewage will continue to flow in the Hadera-Abu Nar stream, causing widespread health nuisances and pollution, affecting the local population and contaminating the groundwater of the Mountain Aquifer.

In July 2007, as part of the GWN Project, the mayors of Baka Al Gharbia and Baka Al Sharkiya signed a MoU agreeing to cooperate on cross-border water issues. Following the signing of the MoU, substantial investments were made in order to realize the local environmental cooperation.

The Joint Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee (JWC) approved the EcoPeace- initiated idea to treat Baka Al Sharkiya’s sewage in the WWTP that was completed in Baka Al Gharbia. Under the implementation of the PWA and with the financial support of UNDP and JICA, a sewage collection system was built for Baka Al Sharkiya and the neighboring communities. The actual household connection of the network is currently on hold due to the failure to sign a MoU regarding the price of treating cross-border sewage.

EcoPeace next step is to facilitate the completion of the first phase of the sewage connection project by advancing the signing of the MoU between the Palestinian and Israeli water authorities, support the establishment of a sewage network for the Nazlat villages and connect it with the Baka Al-Sharkiya network, support a fair tariff system in which sustainability and cost recovery can also be ensured.

Zomer-Alexander Stream:

Wadi Zomer has many pollutants originating from different industries – stone cutting, sesame and olive mill. A major pollutant of the wadi is the olive mill waste, called “akar” or “ziber”. The area between Nablus and Tulkarem is characterized by an intensive industry of olive oil mills that unfortunately dispose their waste directly into the wadi and causes the destruction of aquatic life in the stream.

EcoPeace is working on reducing the quantity of olive oil waste being dumped or otherwise reaching the wadi by implementing olive oil waste treatment and advance operating technologies in the local mills or in the wastewater treatment plants.

This project will focus on two main tracks:

  1. Research – EcoPeace will advocate for more research in this field, and will continue to contact stakeholders and relevant researchers in the region and abroad, in order to explore the most feasible solution for this watershed and promote its implementation.
  2. Promoting potentially successful alternatives for olive oil waste disposal: the West Nablus WWTP is planning to initiate a pilot to collect olive oil waste from 8 mills in the area, insert it into the plant’s digester for biogas production and then dispose of the final sludge at a dumping site. If this pilot succeeds, it could be expanded to treat and dispose all of the olive oil waste, both in Palestine and Israel.

Salfit:

Salfit city has been connected to a public sewerage network since the year 2000 but this network captures just 10% of the total population of the Salfit Governorate.

The rest of the housing units use unhygienic and environmentally unsound cesspits (PWA, 2014) that pollute shared surface and ground waters including those used by residents themselves for both domestic and agricultural purposes. Water scarcity in the governorate of Salfit have been particularly severe in the last two summers due to political and technical reasons where the PWA report in 2012 showed a deficit of 1 MCM of water.

EcoPeace supports the recent KfW decision to build a WWTP for Salfit and encourage an agricultural reuse plan. Based on the PWA’s national strategy report (2014) the total amount of wastewater discharged from the Salfit governorate is 1.75 MCM/year. On the other hand, the agricultural sector in Salfit consumes only 0.7 MCM annually for 5,000 dunums of irrigated fields for both fruit and vegetables, leaving more than 80,000 dunums dependent on rainfall. Hence, treated effluent can be reused as an important source for irrigation for fruit and vegetables in support of the local economy.

Soreq-Sarar:

Though 95% of the area is open spaces including forests, groves, orchards, etc., the landscape in this watershed and its survival are threatened by urban and infrastructure development, intensive agriculture and the pressure of growing tourism. Unplanned accessibility and sporadic unprofessional restorations add to the damage. The central area threatened is from Ein Karem to Wadi Fuqin, and Refaim / Wadi el Ward from Ein Hania to Ein Kobi.

EcoPeace priority initiative in this basin is advancing cross border ecotourism and cross border conservation of the cultural landscape, based on developing shared policies, management and accessibility for Israeli and Palestinian residents and visitors. Thus promoting economic stability, capacity building and empowerment of men and women from the local communities on both sides.

Bethlehem Villages:

Situated west of Bethlehem are the five villages of Battir, Husan, Nahalin, Wadi Fuqin and Al Walajeh. Two of the Palestinian villages suffer from a degraded water supply network and all five villages are currently suffering from a lack of sanitation services including wastewater network, collection, and treatment. The use of cesspits has caused pollution of water springs in the villages. According to the results of biological test analysis, carried out on a regular basis by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the water of these springs is contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria as a result of water mixing with sewage leaking from cesspits into the groundwater basin, making it unfit for domestic use.

EcoPeace advocates for improving the water supply for Battir and Al Walajeh and construct a sanitation network for the villages of Battir, Nahalin, Husan, Wadi Fuqin and Al Walajeh, thus protecting water resources from pollution and reducing conflicts over basic access to water supplies.

Hebron:

The Hebron stream was originally a flood stream. Since the 1990s, the Hebron stream started receiving untreated wastewater from the city of Hebron, the Jewish settlement of Qiryat Arba, and the surrounding Palestinian villages. Wastewater currently flowing through the Hebron Stream is a mix of domestic (94%) and industrial (6%) sewage containing a high level of solid waste and hazardous materials originating from the stone cutting, metal, olive oil, tannery and other industries. Almost 200 industrial facilities discharge their wastewater into the Hebron stream. The pollution severely impacts the shared ground and surface water resources, the environment, and the health of both Palestinian and Israeli communities dwelling along the stream.

EcoPeace supports the efforts of the World Bank in advancing the building of a domestic WWTP for Hebron; the French Development Agency in pre-treatment of industrial waste needs; and finding donor support for the reuse of all treated wastewater and removal from the stream. We aim to attract funding for the development of a reuse strategy and advocate for its advance in parallel to the WWTP being built and support AfD and PWA efforts to survey and later implement investments in the industrial pre-treatment solutions needed.

Gaza Strip:

The Gaza Strip currently lacks suitable sanitation solutions, since the existing wastewater treatment plants in the area cover only a quarter of the wastewater being generated in Gaza annually. In addition, the existing plants suffer severe electricity shortages, which prevent them from treating the delivered wastewater. This results in the discharge of approximately 90,000 CM per day of raw or partially treated sewage, into the Mediterranean Sea and the Coastal Aquifer – the main source for drinking water in Gaza. Moreover, the wastewater flows up the coast polluting Israeli beaches, and potentially causing hazards for the desalination plant near the city of Ashkelon which supplies 20% of Israel’s drinking water.

EcoPeace wishes to advance proper sanitation solutions, including energy supply, to treat the sewage of the 1.8 million people living in the Gaza Strip to help avoid a further humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the region and protect public health on both sides of the border. We support all of the international efforts to build the new WWTP needed in Gaza, monitor and continue advocacy for the needed electricity to run all WWTP.