Beautiful and Functional

In recent years we find "biological" or "ecological" decorative ponds in almost every park or new project being built. Not all these ponds are actually what they claim to be, but we are certainly heading in the right direction. There is growing desire for sustainable systems, with positive carbon footprint, with balanced ecological systems, biological varieties, sources of attraction and food for animals, urban nature and all other terms related to ecology and sustainability.

In this article I would like to advance ecological decorative systems a step ahead and to discuss ornamental systems that have additional functions: treating winter runoff, collecting water and preventing floods, purifying groundwater, preventing erosion and the collapse of slopes, improving water and even “regular” systems that do not require water from the water network. A pond that has more than just decorative function: beauty and functionality. 

Using greywater is included in this category but is worthy of a separate discussion, so I will not include it here.

When the Ramat Gan municipality approached us in the matter of the large “triangle” (a dense urban area and what is now Konvitz Park), it aimed to collect and treat winter runoff. This is an area that would flood with a limited draining system. A hydrological survey carried out by Ofra Aqua Plants determined that in order to build a neighborhood on that site, there has to be an option to temporarily collect 3,000 cubic meters of rainfall. Ofra Aqua Plants designed two graded pools with a permanent low water level, that could accommodate an excess collection volume of over 3,000 cubic meters (architect: Moriah Sekely). Naturally, according to Murphy's Law, two days after planting (before the area around it was developed and planted) there was a large rain storm that swept everything away.

Picture of the full pond:

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Despite of it being new, the system did exactly what it was supposed to. Four days after the storm, the water level returned to its regular level and the system continued to operate and this is what it looks like now:

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The system also got through additional difficult winters without any malfunctions, with the level rising, slowly releasing the water according to the capacity of the draining system, until it returns to the minimum level and the pool is ready for the next incident.

The  Haelef  complex pool is currently being planned (architect: Zurnamel Torner), with an especially large green basin for treatment of winter run-off of the complex, before it is transferred to the Superland lake. This is a complex approach , seeing the holistic, big picture, not focusing only on the neighborhood itself.

Simulation of Hadera Forest:

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In the Nofei Ben Shemen Park (architect: Meizlitz-Kasif) we are working in a flood area, but this project also includes a part of the polluted Gezer stream, so it is a two-fold challenge. Here we need to treat the pollution, to deal with flooding, to create a system that meets the standards of an urban park, creating a sustainable and manageable system.

In a similar manner, the lake at the Ramat Gan National Park is planned to be rehabilitated, along with the Kofer stream.

Water-Revive presents a vision and initiates projects and it is not always successful in receiving the competitive contracts. Several years ago, we presented our vision for the Hadera Forest on the flooded area and its clearings, to the Hadera Financial Company. The concept of our plan is a lake, a bird park and study pools.

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We were glad to hear recently that the Elhanaty Firm was granted the planning of the area and maybe… 

 

Sometimes, even when there is the ability to create a project with a profit for everyone, it is not possible to get everyone to support your vision. In Ashkelon, the Ecosport lake is being planned, intended to deal with winter floods but it lacks summer water source. There also is a pilot program of Mekorot and Ofra Aqua Plants for treating the runoff of the groundwater desalination plant in the area, producing 1,000 cubic meters brine per second and currently flowing to the sea near the neighborhood. The treatment requires an area of constructed wetland and can produce high quality water for the lake. It can also provide an estuary path for flowing excess water to the ocean in parallel to the existing pipe. Everyone benefits. In spite of the architects’ (Aaronson) support, we were as yet unable to promote the integration.

Yet we continue to think and plan for the big, integrated picture that may be included in the next public open space planned in the area. There still is a way to go for there to be more integrative projects of this kind. This requires collaboration between the municipalities, the different planners, the Ministry of the Environmental Protection and others, in accordance with each project, and this is never easy.

The Petah Tikvah lake designed by Ofra Aqua Plants (architecture:  Meizlit-Kasif) faces a different problem: a source of water that is contaminated with nitrate.

The pollution of groundwater with nitrate is a global problem that is not going to go away. Since the  nitrate seeps into the soil slowly, the groundwater contamination we are now experiencing is the result of the pollution we caused 40 years ago, which means that things will get worse. The standard for drinking water in most countries is 40-50 mg/L (in Israel it is 70 mg/L). However, recent studies have shown an increase in certain types of cancer (mainly colorectal cancer) with much lower values. Since 2010, the Israeli standard for release of water into streams (10 mg/L) is already significantly lower than the drinking water standard.

In Israel, wells contaminated with nitrate are simply sealed. That is also the case with the well that supplies water to the lake, with a level of 260 mg/L of nitrate. When the lake was opened, the municipality released a statement to the press explaining that the lake is being filled at once with 20,000 cubic meters of water with high levels of nitrate and a growth of algae is expected. That was indeed what happened, but for two weeks only. Within a short amount of time, due to the intensive root zone activity designed by Ofra Aqua Plants, the nitrate level in the lake dropped to below 1 mg/L, and the water became transparent.

This is what the water looked like after the lake was filled:

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 Two weeks later:

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 The lake  at its full state of development:

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Two winters with a lot of rain caused people to forget about global warming and the danger of desertification, but the problem remains. Even with the desalination factories, the public still (justly) has no patience for using drinking water to fill lakes and large bodies of water. The high cost of water can also prevent a project of this magnitude from being implemented. Air conditioning water is an accessible source for filling water in the summer, when the water is needed the most and Project Blue, designed by Ofra Aqua in Israel’s Negev desert (architecture: Fibeco, landscape design: Zur-Wolf) made the most of this idea. The six residential towers are surrounded by water, and they are accessed via a wooden path on the water.

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Air conditioning water is essentially distilled and hence lacks everything.  This is why we are introduced to a new need: not to purify water, but rather to enrich it. The components that are hardest to add artificially – the secondary metabolites (enzymes, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and in general, the biological components that make the water support life), are easier to add naturally via constructed wetlands. In order to add the lacking salts, which among other issues inhibits plant growth and flowering, we developed a salt balancing protocol to encourage the production of large, vibrant water flowers. This is also useful for when the percentage of desalinated water in the water supply increases. The salt balancing protocol developed by Ofra Aqua Plants is crucial for pools filled with desalinated water, and also for human, soil and agricultural health.

At the Ariel Sharon Park (former Hiriya Garbage Dump), Ofra Aqua’s vision and design for converting the garbage mound into a world-renowned park is a shining example of turning an environmental hazard into an asset (architecture: Peter Latz and Moriah Sekely). The garbage mound at Hiriya is not stable and there is concern it will collapse. In addition to different plans to strengthen the foundation, a beautiful hydraulic buffering pool was planned at the top of the hill with a variable level, which gives it significant ability to collect water from runoff and large amounts of rainfall, releasing them gradually until reaching the regular level.

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Until recent years, there was a separation between our activity as planners of purification systems (dairy farms, garbage mounds, chemical factories, etc.) and public decorative pools. Now, due to increasing human pressure on the environment, is the time to connect, integrate, to observe the world we live in from a wider perspective and to plan sustainable systems that not only look good but also contribute to the environment in many ways.

The author is the owner of Water-Revive and Ofra Aqua Plants companies.