A River Runs Through It, Thanks to You

Banias Stream. Photo Dov Greenbalt

Israel’s rivers and streams are modest by North American standards but provide essential “ecological services” for the healthy functioning of Israel’s environment.  Despite their importance, these vital resources have been exploited and critically harmed over the last century – and increasingly in recent years -- by agriculture and urban development. This year, with support like yours from Israel and from around the world, SPNI has made major strides in restoring and preserving Israel’s rivers and streams.

Our “river team”, established early this year, includes planners, ecologists, and community organizers, who together work holistically to keep the water flowing and protect the biodiversity in these fragile habitats. Our vision is that Israel’s rivers should be managed sustainably as public assets, and rehabilitated so that they can support many plant and animal species, some of which are endangered.

Among the major successes of a year of river work:

  • We’ve demarcated for the Israel Planning Authority floodplains and wetland habitats where building is prohibited. At the same time, with the Planning Authority, we are establishing guidelines to be followed by planners, and members of planning committees.
  • We are advancing regulations and changing policies to reduce industrial and agricultural pollution of our rivers and streams.  We prevented illegal building plans too close to several rivers and advanced an economic model which demonstrates the need for polluters to pay heavier fines.
  • We spurred the Knesset to devote funds to immediately stopping current polluters, and we’re developing legal and ecological position papers if the government starts foot-dragging on implementation.
  • We conduct professional field visits with top leadership from the Israeli Ministries of Environmental Protection and Agricultures, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Drainage Authority, and other regional and national stakeholders.
  • We work hard to raise awareness and galvanize public opinion around the issues and to support and channel the work of citizens and local activists in river preservation and cleanup throughout Israel. We’ve held several webinars dedicated to rivers, attracting hundreds of stakeholders, concerned citizens, and professionals from many fields.