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Project Profile

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The Blaustein Institute for Desert Research

“Green” system for oil and grease (O&G) wastewater


The development of small communities (villages) and remote farms is increasing in Israel and Europe alike and is often located next to environmentally sensitive areas. In Ramat Negev alone there are several dozens small communities (farms) and more are planned. This is also true for Galilee . Most of them are based on agro-tourism. This type of operation is challenging, as it requires maintaining agricultural operation while protecting the environment in a way that would attract tourism. For example, many of these farms produce odorous wastewater with high organic loads (i.e. dairy farms, wineries, oil press). Yet, situated far from central wastewater treatment plants they have to search for efficient on site “green” and economically sound ways to treat their wastewater, preferably together with its reuse (i.e. for irrigation). Sustainable and "environmental friendly" management also has a significant educational benefit. Moreover, the license to sell their products is conditioned by appropriate wastewater treatment. However, there is a lack of reliable and feasible systems aimed at treating small volumes that have variable wastewater quality and quantity.

Downscaling of large facilities is problematic and devices must be designed to treat the special needs of small places, such as changing volumes and quality, limited space and small budgets. Beside the “traditional” domestic pollutants, waste from small agricultural operation contains other pollutants that are not commonly dealt with by small treatment operations. These components make treatment complex and challenging. One such problematic component is high concentrations of oil and grease (O&G). O&G is present in domestic wastewater and is also a significant component in many agro-wastes produced by the growing number of boutique farms in the Negev and Galilee .


With these trends and needs in mind, the objectives of this study are:

  • To pilot an up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor for primary wastewater treatment and biogas production followed by an aerobic system that we recently developed. The system was termed a recycled vertical-flow wetland and will be used for the final polishing prior to its reuse for irrigation.

  • Initially the suggested treatment system will be studied and adjusted at Sde Boker Educational Centre as part of the construction of an historic educational site that will demonstrate ancient, green methods for olive oil and perfume production. The park will host groups of people for various periods (hours to days) from a wide range of backgrounds that will be exposed to water conservation issues as part of their activity on site.

  • Towards the end of the research, a pilot will be set up and tested in a typical dairy farm in the Negev. The novelty of this project is the combination of studying the extent of the problem together with the application of newly developed “green”, low tech, low cost technology that is easy to operate and maintain. Furthermore, beyond the clear environmental and economical benefits, it holds a great promise from the educational point of view.

Dr. Amit Gross