Czech Delegation to WATEC visits Kfar Saba Biofilter

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“This solution can be more useful in the Czech Republic than you can imagine.”

As they prepared to attend WATEC Israel’s premier water conference in Tel Aviv, a group of Czech water experts got a first-hand look at one of Israel’s innovative ways of tackling the issue of water wasted in urban runoff: The Biofilter in Kfar Saba, which is part of a KKL-JNF pilot project being held in cooperation with Monash University in Australia, with the support of JNF Australia.

Already in its fifth year, the project is continuing to progress and prove its effectiveness in dealing with a water problem most urbanized areas are facing, KKL-JNF Central Region Deputy Director Yehiel Cohen told the group.

With increased construction and development in cities, rain water is not absorbed into the ground, which is covered with cement and asphalt, and the rain flows along the streets before draining into the sea, rather than being harnessed as a resource that can benefit cities and neighborhoods. Sometimes, as little as five percent of rainwater enters the water table in urbanized areas because of this phenomenon.

In addition, Israel faces the challenge of non-operational fresh water wells due to sea water seeping up to one kilometer into the aquifers along the coastline, making the water saline and unfit for use.

The first engineered green water-treatment system in Israel, the Kfar Saba Biofilter pilot project harvests and treats polluted water. It consists of a shallow basin with a multi-level filter system composed of sand, gravel, and especially suited vegetation which have been selected for their pollutant removal capacities. The entire filtering process can take two hours and the water at this stage can be used for irrigation and sanitation needs.

The water from the Kfar Saba biofilter is utilized to irrigate a community park enjoyed by the local neighborhood.

The system was built by KKL-JNF with the support of JNF Australia and Monash University in Australia.

“I have seen the water prior its filtration in the system and it is brown and dirty. At the end of the process it is very clear,” said Cohen.  “In the future we plan to coordinate this between the municipality and the Israeli Water Authority whereby the city will receive money back from the Water Authority for every cubic meter of clean water its system puts back into the aquifers.”

Two additional small-scale biofilters are now also operational in Ramle and Bat Yam.

Ales Kendik, the Czech deputy minister of agriculture, said he found the project to be “very interesting.”

“This helps cut down the waste of our natural water resources,” he said, adding that the Czech Republic is currently trying to look into solutions for their similar water issues. “But we need to find the suitable place in our cities.”

Jakub Hrbek, the director of the Czech National Programs’ Management Division, said he thought such a system might be suitable for small villages to help them reuse their runoff water, which could then be used for irrigation of local agriculture.

“We will think of how to support this idea,” said Hrbek.

While Israel also has desalinization facilities to provide for the country’s water needs, a focused biofilter system is a relatively inexpensive way to harness some of nature’s resources which have been going to waste, noted Judith Perl-Strasser, who is responsible for German speaking countries at the KKL-JNF European Desk. “The water (from this system) is sustainable and clean, and requires relatively little financial resources. We hope to see more cities using it,” she said. “Desalination costs a lot of money. This is a small local solution.

“This solution can be more useful in the Czech Republic than you can imagine,” said Jindrich Duras, of the Department of Water Management Planning at the Povodi Vltavy State Water Company. The country is struggling with the issue of pesticide and other pollutant -laden run-off waters entering the rivers, he said. “I think this is a crucial program for water quality. I can’t do anything in my job without a good solution to the issue of good quality water with runoff water. I am very happy to see this. I am looking for a solution.  I am trying to move the Czech Republic forward.”