Israeli West Bank and Jerusalem settlements produce about 91 million cubic meters of wastewater annually, more than double the amount from Palestinian communities. Yet most of it goes untreated. As an occupying power, international humanitarian law requires it be done, yet Israel violates its obligations across the board making Palestinians suffer grievously as a result.
In addition, to operate properly, plants need “round-the-clock maintenance,” but because the per-capita cost is high, “maintenance of most of the facilities is defective.” They experience frequent problems, sometimes shut down entirely, and can’t handle the volume channeled to them. As a result, “raw wastewater from settlements floods West Bank valleys,” Israel’s disclaimer notwithstanding.
In large settlements, built in the 1970s and 1980s, no wastewater is treated or facilities in place “have been neglected for decades.” Among them are:
— Kirat Arba, founded in 1972; its wastewater flows into the Hebron stream that runs into Israel;
— Ofra, founded in 1975; its sewage flows into the Mountain Aquifer and pollutes groundwater; in 2008, Israel began constructing a settlement treatment plant, but it’s being built on Palestinian land without Civil Administration approval;
— Kfar Adumim, founded in 1979; instead of being treated, its wastewater is disposed of in cesspits cut into the ground for effluent disposal; from there, it pollutes land and groundwater; and
— Bat Ayin, founded in 1989; it has a partial collection system, and residents dispose of their wastewater in cesspits.
Other settlements, like those below, experience frequent breakdowns that shut facilities for extended periods:
— Ariel’s treatment plant was defective for a decade, then shut down in 2008; thereafter wastewater flowed into the Shilo stream, a major Yarkon River tributary;
— Elqana’s treatment plant stopped operating; its wastewater flows into the Rava stream, another Yarkon tributary; renovation funding was allocated to make it operable by the end of 2009;
— Qedumim’s two treatment plants ceased functioning in 2007; its wastewater flows into the Abu Jamus stream; in March 2008, one plant resumed operations;
— Beit Ariyeh’s plant stopped functioning in 2008; its effluent flowed into the Shilo stream until renovations let it resume operations in January 2009;
— Qedar, Ma’aleh Amos, Nokdim, Otni’el, Etz Ephraim, and Enav settlements dispose of their wastewater in septic tanks, “from which it seeps into the groundwater and pollutes it;” and
— 25 Jordan Valley settlements’ wastewater is only partially treated in sedimentation basins and oxidation ponds, an outdated method not used inside Israel.
Since the 1940s, untreated wastewater has been channeled from West and East Jerusalem to the Kidron Basin in the city’s southeast. It flows into an open duct from where it moves over 30 kilometers into the Dead Sea.
A Horqaniya Valley diversion facility treats some of it for Jordan Valley settlements’ irrigation, while the rest flows freely into the Mountain Aquifer, “an area sensitive to pollution.” It creates dangerous sanitation and environmental hazards, including groundwater pollution. Yet it’s used as livestock drinking water and for Palestinian farmland irrigation, “despite the (considerable) health risk.”