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Water to the Negev

Water to the Negev

The vision of the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, to make the desert arable, accompanies “Mekorot” from the days of the initial settlement in the Negev to this day. Supplying water to the Negev has always been a national challenge for the national water company. “Mekorot” is committed as it was then, before the establishment of the state, to continue enabling at present and in the future the expansion of Zionist settlement in the desert by providing the resource of life, water.

“Mekorot’s” activities for sustaining life and agriculture in the Negev began in 1943 with the discovery of water in drillings conducted on a hill in the Nir Am area. The amount of water found in boreholes in the Nir Am area allowed the establishment of the first water plant in the Negev. The plant contained a pumping station and a 1000 cubic meters pool, and it played an important role in the struggle for setting the boundaries of the western Negev. From here pipelines went out to the 11 points in the Negev, at the end of Yom Kippur in 1946. Four years later, a pipeline transferring drilling water to communities in the northern Negev was laid. The “Yarkon – Negev” plant gradually established in the mid-1950s and early 1960s, already transferred water to the Negev from the center of the country and later on from the north, by connecting it to the “National Carrier”. Another significant milestone at “Mekorot” for the Negev was the establishment of the “Third Pipeline to the Negev” in the late 1980s. This system was intended to transfer the treated wastewater in the Shafdan in Rishon Leziyon as recycled effluents to the Negev, for the purpose of watering all types of crops without sanitary concern to the client. This is a system operated using a unique introduction technology. The water treated and recycled in the Shafdan is transferred to the introduction fields of the coastal aquifer, in the area near the Shafdan. The water is introduced into the ground using unique means and “Mekorot” ensures it does not mix with the existing water there. In the ground the Company creates a complete separation between the effluents introduced for agriculture, and water that is found there naturally used for drinking. The separation is accomplished by maintaining correct groundwater levels and maintaining the right balance between the amount of effluent inserted and the amount of water produced. “Mekorot” draws the effluents according to demand and provides them for agriculture in the Negev, while ensuring economic viability for farmers.

By returning recycled effluents to the Negev, “Mekorot” fulfilled "Mekorot" many national objectives, including:

• Maximum utilization of the Dan region effluents – the area with the largest concentration of population in Israel
• Directing a larger amount of potable water for domestic and industrial uses
• Creating green groves and fertile agricultural fields in areas that once were barren and completely desolate
• Promoting settlement based on agriculture in the Negev
• Reducing potential groundwater contamination due to non-treated wastewater and non-disposal of it
• Protecting and nurturing the environment

This system and the realization of national goals through it, bring many delegations of scientists from around the world to closely examine and study “Mekorot’s” groundbreaking technologies for the benefit of thriving agriculture in arid and desert places such as the Negev.


“Mekorot’s” current water supply for the settlements in the Negev is based on four sources of water:

• The National Carrier
• The Shafdan System (the Dan region wastewater)
• Local boreholes
• Desalination facilities