2015 Israel - West Bank

Greywater feasibility in the West Bank

Spring 2015

Led by Robert Percival, JD, Carey School of Law; Julie Weisman, JD, Carey School of Law; Elana Fine, MBA, Smith School of Business

Students (school affiliation): Emma Chang (dentistry), Carlos Cedeno (business), Patrick Gillece (business), Hirokazu Masuoka (business), Mona Qureshi (law),  Brieanah Schwartz (law), Maria Sitson (nursing), Hilary Tebeleff (law)

Project goal:

The faculty and interprofessional student group worked with Water Resources Action Project, of which Ms. Weisman is a founding member. The Water Resources Action Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which works on water and peace-building initiatives in Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Jordan (the Region). In conjunction with their in-country partnering organization, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES), the team of eight students were tasked with investigating the efficacy of reusing greywater for smallholder agricultural development in off-grid communities in the region. 

Background:

Water, the essence of life, is an extremely constrained resource in the Region. Climate change has resulted in shorter rainy seasons, and therefore less precipitation overall. Population growth, agricultural expansion and industrial growth further contribute to major concerns of long-term drought.  Of the three entities, Israel has been blessed with somewhat better geography (the Sea of Galilee and a coastline) and has been able to engage technology to enhance its water resources through desalination, deep drilling into aquifers, and a sophisticated recycling program. The PA and Jordan are not so well positioned and are severely lacking in clean fresh water. Some towns and villages in Jordan often go two to three weeks between water deliveries. Moreover, wastewater collection and treatment in both places are sorely lacking, while recycling of wastewater is minimal. Drought, and inadequate treatment mechanisms, can have multiple negative impacts on the health of individuals in the region including malnutrition, vulnerability to infectious diseases and increased morbidity.        

Project outcomes:

AIES, located in Israel’s Negev and affiliated with Ben Gurion University, brings together Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian students to study transboundary environmental issues. Last year, Professor Percival and Ms. Weisman brought undergraduate and law students to AEIS to look at cross-border water issues. For this project, they addressed water and treatment deficiencies on a small scale by investigating the feasibility of small greywater treatment and reuse systems installed in eight rural communities in the Region. Greywater essentially lies in the vast intersection between fresh, potable water and sewage. Merriam-Webster defines it as ”household wastewater (as from a sink or bath) that does not contain serious contaminants (as from toilets or diapers).” The students focused on three specific aspects of these installations, based on their areas of expertise. The law students examined the legality of these units in the three separate jurisdictions. The dental and nursing students studied how to improve the safety of these systems for crop production, and the business students assisted in developing a business model for expanding these types of projects and for developing other similar projects. The students produced a joint, collaborative report at the end of the project to present their findings and recommendations to local partners of the project.

Student quote:

"I've been searching for a niche area where I can initiate the most change on an international and environmental scale through the law, and I think I have found my niche area! Water is something I have always been passionate about since studying it in college through the lenses of sustainability and geopolitical stability, but this trip has opened my eyes to all of the other issues water scarcity contributes to. I can’t wait to hit the ground running and find an organization in the States that advocates for sound water policies." - Mona Qureshi, School of Law

More articles about the project may be found from UM School of Law and the Smith School of Business.

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