08/25/2011 05:01

Court rejects “Not In My Back Yard” argument from local councils, says all Israelis must do their part.
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As the water level in the Kinneret hovered around the lower red line on Wednesday, a judge in the Tel Aviv District Court slammed a petition by Beit Uziel, Beit Hashmonai and Karmei Yosef local councils against the construction of an agricultural wastewater reservoir in Kibbutz Gezer.

National water carrier Mekorot said the 1.3 million cubic meter reservoir is an essential part of a national plan to address the country’s severe water shortage by using recycled, purified water from the surrounding cities’ sewage system. That water would be drawn off and used for agricultural irrigation purposes.

However, petitioners complained the reservoir would damage the landscape, affect tourism, create noise pollution and foul odors and attract mosquitoes, and filed the petition to try to halt its construction.

Judge Michal Agmon criticized the petitioners for opposing the wastewater reservoir solely on the grounds that it would be built next to their community, Beit Uziel, while having no objections to the use of wastewater for irrigation per se.

“This is a clear case of Not In My Back Yard syndrome… it’s about people’s desire to enjoy the benefits of modern life without the consequences of their negative effects,” said Agmon. “This syndrome is unacceptable. We should care about our water economy. We should establish reservoirs for wastewater. And since our country is very small, it’s obvious that these [reservoirs] will be created in the ‘backyards’ of these or other communities.”

The court noted that the reservoir will contain only water purified to the highest possible level, which will not cause any odor or attract mosquitoes, and dismissed petitioners’ allegations that the reservoir would bring health risks, blight the local landscape and harm tourism.

In ruling to allow the wastewater project to proceed, however, Agmon did stipulate that a monitoring and control system must be installed in the reservoir to ensure wastewater quality.

Her ruling also emphasized the responsibility for conserving water lies with everybody.

“Israel is drying up,” said the judge. “That’s what the news broadcasts tell us. We are all encouraged to save water and find solutions to alleviate the water shortage.”

After six years of drought, Israel is suffering one of its worst water crises in history.

In order to alleviate the water shortage, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has cited wastewater treatment and reuse as being high on Israel’s list of national priorities.

Last year, the Knesset Internal and Environmental Protection Committee approved stringent standards for wastewater treatment so wastewater can be used for irrigation purposes.

According to a report by wastewater expert Prof. Gedaliah Shelef of the Technion, Israel has already devoted more effort than any other country in the world to wastewater reuse, in terms of its size and economy, and has the highest percentage in the world of wastewater reuse for agricultural irrigation.

Environmental groups welcomed the ruling, but also urged Israelis to help alleviate the water crisis by conserving water at home.

Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) said reservoirs made sense, but also emphasized the need to reduce the amount of wastewater being produced by adopting practices to reduce water-use at home.

“We believe that we should encourage the maximum reuse of water before it even gets to the waste water treatment plants,” Bromberg said.

“If we applied this level of water management there would be less need for wastewater reservoirs.”