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Gazan water contamination threatens agriculture in southern Israel

Tests performed by the Ministry of Health indicated that water quality had become too poor to use in irrigation, thanks to negligent water treatment in the Gaza Strip.

Sprinklers water the plantation fields near the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
Sprinklers water the plantation fields near the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

Israel’s Ministry of Health warned farmers on the Gaza border not to use water from Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev wastewater reservoirs to irrigate their fields, due to sewage contamination from Gaza.

Tests performed by the Ministry of Health indicated that water quality had become too poor to use in irrigation, thanks to negligent water treatment in Gaza.

Regional communities were instructed by the Water Authority to build a new sewage pipe from Gaza to Israel, after the sewage-treatment facility there was shut down due to Hamas’s refusal to utilize electricity for sewage treatment.

Even prior to that, Gazan sewage leaked into nearby streams, contaminating the groundwater in the area of Moshav Netiv HaAsara.

The Water Authority said the massive flow of waste from Gaza into Israeli sovereign territory is an “emergency event,” and that the entity is working to reduce damage and protect wells. The authority accused Gazans of neglecting to protect water sources long before the electricity crisis.

Farmers on the Gaza perimeter expressed concerned, given that the rainy season is almost over and agricultural irrigation will be required in a few weeks.

In July, the amount of sewage discharged into the Nahal Hanun stream increased so significantly that pumping sewage out of it was no longer effective. Israel was forced to respond by utilizing IDF forces to block the stream from the Gaza side with dirt.

The plan was thwarted when Palestinians broke through the mound and continued dumping sewage into the stream.

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