Under conditions of water scarcity and intensive development, the degradation of water quality is a critical problem. The main causes of groundwater pollution are chemical fertilizers, pesticides, seawater intrusion, and domestic and industrial wastewater. High priority has been given to wastewater treatment to safeguard its effects on the environment and public health and to develop an additional water source for agricultural irrigation. A recently approved plan for water management stipulates seawater and brackish water desalination, improved wastewater treatment for reuse purposes, efficient water production and water conservation. A rehabilitation program for polluted streams has been initiated with the aim of transforming them into freshwater resources with ecological and recreational value. The quality of drinking water is strictly supervised.
Factors affecting air quality include energy production, transportation, and industry - and all three have increased dramatically in recent years. The use of low sulfur fuel for energy production has helped reduce concentrations of sulfur dioxide considerably, but pollutant emissions linked to increased vehicular traffic have risen significantly. Lead-free gasoline, catalytic converters, and lower sulfur content in diesel fuel have been introduced to mitigate the problem. A nationwide monitoring system is providing updated information on air quality throughout the country. Israel also strives to comply with international resolutions on ozone depletion and climate change.
Rapid growth in population, standard of living, and consumption have led to significant increases in solid waste in the order of 4%-5% annually. Most of the country's illegal garbage dumps have been shut down in recent years and replaced with environmentally-safe landfills. Efforts are being made toward integrated solid waste management, which will include reduction, recycling, recovery, and incineration. Recent recycling regulations should facilitate the shift to low- and nonwaste technology.
"Cradle to grave" management of hazardous substances is based on licensing, regulation, and supervision over all aspects of their production, use, disposal, and treatment. Enforcement of legislation, implementation of a national contingency plan for integrated emergency response to accidents, and remediation and upgrading of the national site for hazardous waste should minimize potential dangers to health and the environment.
Enforcement of environmental legislation is a top priority alongside environmental education, from kindergarten to university. The public takes part in environmental law enforcement as anti-litter trustees and animal welfare trustees are empowered to report on violations of the respective laws. Economic tools are increasingly used to promote environmental improvement, both in the form of financial grants to industries that invest in pollution prevention and in the form of taxes and levies on polluters. In line with the principles of sustainable development, efforts are directed at resource conservation and prevention of pollution in all economic sectors.