The JNF Parsons Water Fund
Many years of drought in Israel, coupled with an increased demand from a rapidly growing population, have overexploited the country’s limited natural water resources. Major water bodies, including the Kinneret— Israel’s only freshwater lake—have dwindled to critically low levels, threatening irreversible contamination of the water supply and long-term ecological damage.
Over the past three decades, Jewish National Fund (JNF) has worked to alleviate Israel’s chronic water shortage, primarily through the construction of recycled water reservoirs that have increased the water supply by 12%. The JNF Parsons Water Fund was established to expand upon this vital work. The Fund supports initiatives that address water treatment and water quality issues, pollution and trans-boundary challenges, with a focus on recycling, developing alternative water sources, education, stream and aquifer restoration, and research. One of its unique approaches is to also operate as a revolving fund, lending capital for water projects and using repayments for future investments. In addition, the Fund identifies projects where its philanthropic contributions can leverage matching funds from public and other sources.
The JNF Parsons Water Fund is overseen by a board of directors, each of whose members contributed a minimum of $100,000. Working closely with the Israeli water and environmental authorities, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, local Israeli water associations, amd education and research institutions, the board is responsible for managing the selection of projects and overseeing their implementation.
The Fund is named for the late Natan Parsons z”l of Boston, an inventor with over 100 worldwide patents, who served as JNF’s vice president for water projects and spearheaded the initiative before he passed away. With several projects successfully completed, the JNF Parsons Water Fund adopted 10 exciting new projects for 2013-2014 that will diversify the ways in which the Fund is helping address Israel’s water challenges. During 2014, additional projects will be selected for support.
MYWAS (Multi-Year Water Allocation System)
MYWAS is a national water management model that seeks to achieve the most efficient national water resource management and allocation. The model incorporates demand functions by different water users as well as information on water infrastructure systems and their costs. It aims to be a most useful tool for national water resource management. This is a joint project with the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture and a non-profit organization, Water Economics Project, based in Massachusetts.
Besor Restoration Project
This trans-boundary project is jointly undertaken by JNF, USAID and the European Union, and is operated by the Center for Trans-boundary Water Management - Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The main objective is to lay the foundation for effective stream restoration for the Besor, Israel’s largest dry river system, and hopefully create an operational model for addressing the region’s 16 highly polluted trans-boundary streams. The project will begin with restoration efforts for the Hebron/Besor watershed, which annually receives some 1.3 billion gallons of effluents from Palestinian communities in the West Bank and additional sources of effluent from Israeli farming communities. It aims to develop scientific and stakeholders’ decision-making and ultimately public attention on Transboundary pollution issues.
Arara Water Treatment Center Upgrade
The Arara treatment center will safely and productively dispose of effluents produced by the Nevatim Air Force Base in the Negev. JNF is upgrading the water treatment unit so that water could be used for unrestricted irrigation. The upgrade constitutes an important component within a multi-faceted water distribution system linking the Air Force Base effluents to a Bedouin community operated treatment center at Arara. The treated water will then flow via a long piping system provided by the Water Authority to be stored at a JNF-KKL-built reservoir at Moshav Nevatim for irrigation needs by farmers and where a portion of the water can be available for the Be’er Sheva River Park Lake.
The Gomeh Reservoir is currently being developed near Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel to benefit some 30 farming communities in the Galilee Panhandle. It will utilize effluents from Kiryat Shmona and provide much needed recycled water for the region. The reservoir, which will be completed next year, is planned to provide 530 million gallons on an annual basis.
JNF will build the laboratory floor of the Water Industries Research and Training Center, a four-story water center at the Kinneret College Center of Excellence at the Sea of Galilee. This is part of an overall vision to provide practical training and academic learning for water engineers, thereby transforming the North into a center of water expertise and innovation and increasing the economic growth potential of Israel’s northern region while providing a much needed boost to Israel’s water industry.
International Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition
To stimulate awareness and concern for water related issues among Israeli youth, JNF became the prime sponsor of the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition in Israel, known as the “Junior Nobel Prize for Water Research.” Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute and held annually in Stockholm, the competition is the highest prize in water research for young people, promoting a new generation of scientists to work in this important field.
Communal Delivery System in Central Arava
As part of JNF’s commitment to develop the Central Arava region, JNF invested in bringing a water supply system to Sapir, the service center of the seven communities of Central Arava and the hub that houses all public facilities and services including schools, the community center, Arava International Center for Agrcultural Training (AICAT), and the soon-to-be-completed Medical Center. The communities of Central Arava are not part of Israel’s water grid and local wells provide mostly brackish water. At long last, the government is providing the communities, including Sapir, with small desalination plants. JNF is providing the desalination water delivery system to Sapir’s houses and public facilities.
JNF will undertake a constructed wetlands project to develop Moshav Tslafon’s water purification program. At Moshav Tslafon, located in the Judean foothills between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, JNF will create a biologically treated water system involving a high tech filtration unit that will work in conjunction with a living plant ecosystem that uses natural botanical filtration. This project is unique as few moshavim are involved in green environmental projects.
Shamir Drills Research
Two additional research projects will help the longevity of the Shamir Drill pipes and screens by addressing the concerns related to potential cracked pipes and the long term effects of chemicals and bacteria on the pipes. This drilling project is JNF’s flagship water project with water found at a depth of one mile! While the water is not harmful to flora and fauna, it poses a threat to the old concrete water pipes and wells screens servicing dozens of communities.
Identifying Sources that Recharge Hula Valley
The Hula valley water system is a vital component of Israel’s natural water economy. JNF joined with Ben Gurion University’s Institute for Water Research in an effort to identify all sub-surface flow trajectories, assess the hydraulic connectivity among the aquifers and the productive water bearing units, quantify the groundwater fluxes into and from the Hula Valley aquifer’s systems, and come up with a hydrologic model to predict the impact of groundwater pumping from deep aquifers along the Hula Valley on the water balance within the northern basin.
Success stories of previous water projects:
Shamir Drillings: The Shamir Drillings is the largest natural underground water resource exploitation of the past decade, adding more than 1% to Israel’s total annual water availability.
Ramon Air Force Base (AFB) Constructed Wetlands: The Ramon Air Force Base Constructed Wetlands treats the AFB’s effluents to a level of unrestricted irrigation use. It irrigates JNF’s Essence of Life Park as well as neighboring farming communities.
Sderot - Or Haner Reservoirs: The Sderot reservoir has an annual treatment and storage capacity of some 530 million gallons, which is augmented by Or Haner reservoir’s capacity of storing 330 million gallons of water annually. The water is used to irrigate a variety of crops in nearby communities.
Rainwater Harvesting School Programs: JNF has been operating the Rainwater Harvesting school program in 27 schools since the inception of the program in 2009. Three more schools are planned for 2014/15. The program involves the installation of a rainwater harvesting system with a 5-year educational program focused on water conservation and Israel’s water challenges. It is operated by JNF’s partner, Green Horizons.
Beit Guvrin Reservoir: The Beit Guvrin recycled water reservoir, located approximately 15 miles northwest of Kiryat Gat, receives purified wastewater from the Jerusalem area. It has an annual storage capacity of 264,000,000 gallons, which is used to irrigate 275 acres of almond groves in the Beit Guvrin region and additional farming lands.