Kenya Delegation Visits the Kfar Saba Biofilter

Sunday, October 18, 2015 4:22 PM

“We have so much water and do so little with it, while you have so little water and do so much with it.”

A delegation of government and business leaders from Kenya visited the Kfar Saba Biofilter - a system of storm water harvesting and recycling that was built by KKL-JNF, with the support of JNF Australia and Monash University - to see how it could be replicated in Kenya. The group was accompanied by KKL-JNF Central Region Director Haim Messing, and Dr. Yaron Zinger, who introduced the Australian-developed biofilter system to Israel.
 

Kenyan delegation at the biofilter in Kfar Saba. Photo: KKL-JNF

 
“We have so much water and do so little with it, while you have so little water and do so much with it.”
That was the general consensus among the Kenyan delegation which visited the KKL-JNF biofilter system in Kfar Saba on Oct. 13, 2015.
 

Okotch Mondoh, from AB-Africa Business Initiatives consultants; Benjamin Chesire Cheboi, Governor of Baringo County; Wycliffe Oparanga, Governor of Kakamega County. Photo: KKL-JNF

 
Led by governors Wycliffe Oparanga of Kakamega County, Benjamin Chesire Cheboi of Baringo County and consultant for rural development, and Okotch Mondoh of Africa Business Initiatives, the group was briefed about the system by Dr. Yaron Zinger, who received his PhD from Melbourne’s Monash University and introduced the first biofilters to Israel using technology developed in Australia.
 
Discussion with KKL-JNF Central Region Director Haim Messing at the Kfar Saba Green School. Photo: KKL-JNF
The Kenyan group was in Israel to attend WATEC 2015, the Water Technology and Environmental Control Conference.
 
While in Kfar Saba the group also visited the city’s green school where they received a guided tour of the school’s innovative green technology, including its cooling and heating system and outdoor garden.
 
In a detailed presentation following the student-led tour, Zinger explained the philosophy and technology behind the use of the Biofilter, which was built by KKL-JNF with the support of JNF Australia and Monash University.
 
Dr. Zinger explained that due to increased construction and development, Dr. Yaron Zinger, director and designer of the KKL-JNF biofilter project,  gives detailed presentation to delegation at the Kfar Saba biofilter. Photo: KKL-JNFstorm water cannot be absorbed into the ground in urban areas covered with cement and asphalt. As a result, people have been treating the runoff as a nuisance to be gotten rid of quickly and drained into the sea, rather than as a resource to be harnessed and used for the benefit of all. Sometimes as little as only five percent of the water enters the water table.
 
Furthermore, he said, half of Israel’s fresh water wells are not operational anymore because of salinity due to sea water intruding about one kilometer into the aquifers along the coastline. 
 
The Kfar-Saba biofilter is the first engineered green water treatment system in Israel, harvesting storm water and treating polluted groundwater. The biofilter in Kfar Saba. Photo: KKL-JNFIt consists of several layers of sand, gravel and vegetation that support healthy growth of plants which have been selected specifically for their pollutant removal capacity. Of the 200 plants tested, only five were found to able to do the job.
 
Urban runoff is brought to the system through gravity while water from contaminated groundwater wells is pumped into the system. The whole filtering process can take only two hours, he said, and the water produced can, for the moment, be used for irrigation and flushing toilets. It is also versatile in design and can be accommodated to a location's geography, as shown by the two new biofilters now in place in the cities of Bat Yam and Ramle.
 
“Basically we are helping the government get more water. We are emphasizing the educational aspect of it to help engage the public,” said Zinger. Benjamin Chesire Cheboi, Governor of Baringo County, with colleagues at the biofilter pump. Photo: KKL-JNFWith the three pilot biofilters in place, Zinger hopes that the government will be able to create the necessary regulations.
 
He told the group that KKL-JNF is about to launch a Water Sensitive Cities research study together with Ben Gurion University and the Technion with the funding of $1.5 million over four years, in order to create guidelines of how to create water sensitive cities for national implementation.
 
“We are on the front end of research and development,” said Zinger, who was in Kenya over a year ago to see what the water challenges there were.
 
KKL-JNF Central Region Director Haim Messing, who accompanied the group, noted that the ultimate goal of the biofilter projects is to lower the water costs for consumers. 
 
Greeting the group on behalf of the Municipality of Kfar Saba was Noam Aricha, assistant to the deputy mayor of the city.
 
Studying the biofilter's vegetation. Photo: KKL-JNF“Kfar Saba is a proud green leader in Israel and we are proud of this biofilter project and our cooperation with KKL-JNF,” he said. “We hope this idea will catch on in other places in Israel as well.”
 
Governor Oparanga said that in some cities in Kenya, water is wasted in great amounts and he had come to look at the biofilter to see how they could use this technology to improve the situation in his country.
 
“The use of technology here is quite high,” he said. “I hope we can use the same technology with the support of KKL-JNF. We can experiment in our country. However cost will be an issue."
 
Seeing the biofilter in reality was amazing, said Governor Cheboi.
 
In Ilanot Forest. Photo: KKL-JNF“This system of filtering water so that it can be recharged underground is to me a very innovative solution,” he said.
 
Mondoh, who has visited Israel multiple times, said he had been eager to have the group visit the biofilter to help policy leaders learn and begin talking about technology which could help their country.
 
“It not only beautifies the area but it also purifies water. In Nairobi and other cities in Kenya there is a lot of storm water drainage. Nairobi has a great water deficit and yet there are huge amounts of water flowing in the streets,” said Mondoh.  “We can harvest this water instead of using domestic water. For me, Israel and the KKL-JNF is the place to come for this. We hope we are able to start a pilot project in Africa.”
 
Samuel Muhati, personal assistant to governor Oparanga of Kakamega county, and Josphat Muriuki Kithumbu, C.E.C. Lands, Water, Environment and Natural Resources, Embu County, at Ilanot Forest. Photo: KKL-JNFAfter the visit to the biofilter the group also enjoyed a scenic tour around the nearby KKL-JNF Ilanot Arboretum, which includes 32 acres and two miles of trails, which are all special needs accessible. The garden was begun from 750 seed species from throughout the world, representing the five continents. 
 
During their time there, the delegation also learned about the other work of KKL-JNF including planting trees to fight deforestation, building 230 water reservoirs, making nature accessible for everyone in their forests and other tourism sites, river restoration, work in research and development in afforestation and agriculture, renewable energy, international cooperation, and education and co-existence.