Ecological Wastewater Treatment for Rural Communities in the West Bank

Septic Tank to Constructed Wetland

 

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The Project

Um al-Rehan, a rural village in the West Bank, Palestine is similar to other villages in the West Bank in that it lacks adequate sewage treatment.  The wastewater from the homes in this village flows, untreated, to a cesspit where it percolates into the ground contaminating the underlying Mountain Aquifer.  For this village, and for many others, sewage treatment would best be achieved by a low-cost, simple, natural solution.  This pilot project is a septic tank/constructed wetland system to treat wastewater from five homes in the village to achieve this goal.  Funds for the pilot project were made by the Government of New Zealand and by private donation.

This system is a natural - green - alternative to conventional sewage treatment.  The system is passive, relying on gravity rather than on a series of electric pumps.  Treatment is performed by biological not chemical means and the treated water is used for irrigation which would otherwise be accomplished by potable water.  The septic tank/wetland system will replace the common cesspit currently being used in Um al-Rehan.  Wastewater is collected in the plumbing system of each home and is conveyed by gravity to a septic tank buried outside of the home.  The water from each tank then flows to a shared wetland for additional treatment before it is discharged as irrigation water.    

Construction began in the beginning of January 2008 and is nearly complete.  Installation of the system was possible because of the volunteers from Om Al-Reehan and Israel.  The Ecological Wastewater Treatment for Rural Communities in the West Bank Project is a true example of Palestinian/Israeli cooperation for the common goals of environmental protection, public health and peace between peoples

This project is an example of Photographs of the activities are presented in the attached Exhibit.  Additional photographs can be viewed at http://wetland.maabarot.org.il/Um-A-Reichan/album/index.html .

At each of the five homes selected for the pilot project, the following  septic tanks have been installed at all five homes, the collection system from the homes to  The pilot system currently is currently being constructed with the help of the residents of Um al-Rehan. 

 

Septic Tanks

The septic tanks will be cast in-place with reinforced concrete.  Thus far, the pits for 4 of the septic tanks have been excavated with a backhoe.  Each excavated area measures approximately 1 meter (m) by 3m by 1m and was dug with a small excavator.  Additionally, the formworks for septic tanks have been manufactured, and a small cement mixer has been purchased.  These 2 items are a one-time capitol expense and will be able to be used to complete the construction of similar systems for the rest of the homes in Om Al-Reehan and other villages.

Wetland

To install a constructed wetland, a large excavation needs to be dug using mechanical equipment.  The excavation is graded by hand, and liner material (both a clay liner and polyethylene sheeting) is laid on the bottom, followed by the first layer of gravel.  The excavation piping network is installed over the liner material and backfilled with large gravel.  Once the gravel is in-place, wetland plants are planted. 

The wetland measures approximately 8m by 21m by ½ m.  This area has been excavated with the same excavator as the septic tank pits and then smoothed by hand by the Palestinian and Israeli volunteers.  The volunteers also spread the clay liner material, laid the polyethylene sheeting, and spread the first layer of large gravel across the bottom of the excavation. 

Budget to Complete the Rest of Um al-Rehan

There are a total of 40 residences in Um al-Rehan.  Current funds are expected to be sufficient to build the system at 8 residences, leaving 32 homes in need of the system. 

For the expansion of the project described in this document to the remaining homes in the village, IPCRI is requesting 81,935 USD.  The costs were developed based on expenditures during the pilot project and collective knowledge of similar systems. Please refer to the table below for the proposed budget.

 

 

Budget for Expanding the Septic Tank to Wetland System

To 8 Homes in Um al-Rehan

Item

No.

Unit

Unit Cost

Total Cost (USD)

Septic Tank

32

Each

1,250

40,000

Pipe Work

5

Each

1,750

8,750

Constructed Wetland

5

Each

4,500

22,500

Project Total

 

 

 

71,250

Contingency (5% of Project Total)

 

 

 

3,560

Overhead (10% of project total)

 

 

 

7,125

Grand Total

 

 

 

81,935

 

 


 

Ecological Wastewater Treatment for Rural Communities

In the West Bank

Septic Tank to Constructed Wetland

 

Objective 

To provide low cost sanitation to five villages in Israel and Palestine.

 

The Issue

Israel has three main water sources: the Sea of Galilee, the Coastal Aquifer, and the Mountain Aquifer. The Mountain Aquifer is unique in that it is a shared fresh water resource between Israelis and Palestinians.  The recharge area of the Aquifer includes most of the West Bank and some parts of Israel.  The quality of the groundwater is threatened mainly due to limited sewerage treatment for villages located in the West Bank.  Untreated sewerage flows into unsanitary cesspits on the surface of the Mountain Aquifer and percolates into the ground.  Scientific data indicate that portions of the Aquifer are already polluted by nitrate and fecal coliform which are commonly found in wastewater. 

 

The Solution

Many of the villages in the West Bank are isolated and stand on rocky round.  To provide them with conventional treatment systems is very expensive and such systems are unlikely to be provided for many years.  Therefore, sewage treatment would best be achieved by an on-site, low-cost, simple, natural solution, such as a septic tank to constructed wetland system. 

This system is a natural “green” alternative to conventional sewage treatment.  The system is passive, relying on gravity rather than on a series of electric pumps.  Treatment is performed by biological not chemical means and the treated water is used for irrigation which would otherwise use potable water.  The septic tank/wetland system will replace the common cesspit currently being used in rural West Bank communities.  Wastewater is collected in the plumbing system of each home and is conveyed by gravity to a two-chamber septic tank buried outside of the home. 

A pilot project is underway in Om Al-Reehan, a rural village in the West Bank, Palestine.  This pilot project is being constructed at 10 homes in the village; each will receive a private septic tank and will be connected to one of two shared wetlands. 

IPCRI wishes to raise funds to expand this project to 5 additional villages in the Mountain Aquifer recharge area - 3 in the West Bank and 2 in Israel.  Selection of the villages is being undertaken with the help of the Palestinian Water Authority. 

Construction and Maintenance

Construction in each village will be overseen by a Palestinian Construction Manager trained during the construction of the pilot system.  Similar to the pilot system, installation will be performed by the residents of each village who are skilled workers.  Volunteerism is an important cost-saving contribution to the project.  Overall program management will be performed by sanitation engineers working in consultation with IPCRI. 

This system is designed to last for a minimum of 15 years.  Once built, this system will require minimal maintenance, cleaning the septic tank once every three years and replacing the membrane filter every three to four months. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Benefits

Treatment and Reuse of Wastewater

The Mountain Aquifer is unique in that it is a shared fresh water resource between Israelis and Palestinians.  The recharge area of the Aquifer includes most of the West Bank and some parts of Israel.  The quality of the groundwater is threatened due to limited sewerage treatment for villages located in the West Bank.  Untreated sewerage flows into unsanitary cesspits on the surface of the Mountain Aquifer and percolates into the ground.  Scientific data indicate that portions of the Aquifer are already polluted by nitrate and fecal coliform which are commonly found in wastewater. 

This project will improve the quality of life of the residents of the villages where it is implemented.  In the long term it will positively effect the environment by providing treatment for household wastewater that would otherwise be a source of contamination for the aquifer.  This project will also provide a means to reuse the treated wastewater for irrigation of soil/crops that would otherwise be irrigated with potable water. Additionally, it teaches the residents about natural treatment as a means to protecting water resources and how to use treated water for irrigation. 

Creation of Habitat

The constructed wetland will provide suitable nesting habitat and cover for birds of the region.   

Community Development and Education

Community building and participation is an inevitable outcome as the residents will work together to build the system and plant the wetland plants.

Nature is a classroom for the local volunteers who will learn how wetlands function, why sewage is harmful for human health and the environment, and how natural treatment is a preferred means to protect valuable water resources, (i.e. the Mountain Aquifer). 


 

Budget to Expand the Project to 5 Additional Villages

This budget assumes that each village consists of 50 homes.  Since the system operates under gravity, the topography of each village affects the construction and layout of the system.  It may not be possible for each home in a village to be connected to a single (shared) wetland.  It is assumed that each village will require 6 constructed wetlands.   

For the expansion of the project described in this document to 5 additional villages, IPCRI is requesting 517,500 USD.  The costs were developed based on expenditures during the pilot project and collective knowledge of similar systems. Please refer to the table below for the proposed budget.

 

Budget for Expanding the Septic Tank to Constructed Wetland System

To 5 Additional Villages

Item

No.

Unit

Unit Cost

(USD)

Total Cost (USD)

Line Items for 1 Additional Village

 

 

 

 

Septic Tank

50

Each

1,250

62,500

Pipe Work

6

Each

1,750

10,500

Constructed Wetland

6

Each

4,500

27,000

Salaries for Construction Manager (Palestinian) and Resident Engineer

1

Each

10,000

20,000

Project Total for 1 Additional Village

 

 

 

120,000

Septic Tank to Constructed Wetland System

5

Each

100,000

500,000

Contingency (5% of Project Total)

 

 

 

31,000

Overhead (10% of project total)

 

 

 

62,000

Grand Total

 

 

 

1,213,000

 

Budget Summary:

Overhead includes costs associated with issuing tenders, accounts payable transactions, travel expenses, phone calls and faxes.  Time and materials that are part of IPCRI’s fixed costs will be donated to the project.
Budget Summary:

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Photo No. 1

Existing Conditions at a Typical Home in Um al-Rehan

Description:  Untreated wastewater flows overland from a pipe in the wall, to a hole under the pile of rocks where it is stored in a former cistern.

Date:  24 January 2008

 

 

 

Photo No. 2

Existing Conditions at a Typical Home in Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Close-up view of the pipe in the wall.

Date:  24 January 2008

     

 

 

 

 

Photo No. 3

Existing Conditions at a Typical Home in Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Wastewater collected inside of the former cistern.

Date:  24 January 2008

 

 

 

Photo No. 4

Existing Conditions at a Typical Home in Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Overflow from the cistern travels to the soil surrounding the concrete pad.  When saturated, small surface ponds form.

Date:  24 January 2008

     

 

 

 

Photo No. 5

Existing Conditions at a Typical Home in Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Close-up of ponding on soil surface.

Date:  24 January 2008

 

 

 

Photo No. 6

Work Performed To Date at Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Excavator used to dig wetland area and septic tanks.

Date:  19 January 2008

     

 

 

 

Photo No. 7

Work Performed To Date at Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Om Al-Reehan children learning to use survey equipment.

Date:  19 January 2008

 

 

 

Photo No. 8

Work Performed To Date at Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Om Al-Reehan children surveying the wetland berm.

Date:  January 2008

     

 

 

 

 

Photo No. 9

Work Performed To Date at Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Installing clay liner in wetland.

Date:  26 January 2008

 

 

 

Photo No. 10

Work Performed To Date at Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Installing clay liner in wetland.

Date:  26 January 2008

     

 

 

 

 

Photo No. 11

Work Performed To Date at Om Al-Reehan

Description:  Excavation for septic tank.

Date:  26 January 2008