Every person should drink a lot of water every day and the nutritional recommendations emphasize we should drink only water. In Israel, the drinking water provided to the public is of a high quality and available at any time and anywhere. Despite their quality many people are afraid to drink it, partly because they are concrened about their quality and taste.
In this article we will dive in and get to know the path of drinking water to our tap, the advantages of drinking tap water and more about the most important consumer product in Israel.
Water: a resource of health
The UN Human Rights Committee has recognized that every person has a fundamental right to obtain drinking water that is accessible and of good quality. In Israel, the Ministry of Health established regulations regarding the quality of drinking water, which is routinely monitored. The regulations meet the strict requirements of the drinking water standards adopted by international institutions, similarly to regulations in developed countries around the world.
The regulations that determine the sanitary quality of drinking water are intended to ensure the health of consumers, those who use drinking water for cooking, bathing and other domestic activities.
Why is it recommended to drink tap water?
In a hot country like Israel, drinking water is very important for human health at any age. The Ministry of Health recommends drinking plenty of tap water: in private households, educational institutions, workplaces, parks, restaurants and everywhere.
The reasons for recommending drinking tap water: drinking tap water has all the benefits of drinking water, which no other beverage has. Water maintains normal development in children, helps maintaining body fluids to prevent obesity and chronic diseases, helps preventing dental caries and more.
In addition, tap water use has unique advantages:
- High sanitary quality and constant supervision.
- High availability: found in every home, and wherever we are during the day such as the workplace, educational and leisure institutions and the public space.
- Can be poured into a glass, jug, reusable bottle or even drunk directly from the tap.
- Extremely low cost – lower than that of any other alternative.
- Accessibility: we do not have to purchase and carry a beverage and no delivery is needed.
- Protects the environment as transportation is reduced and less bottles need to be recycled.
- Served free in restaurants in Israel according to the Public Buildings Law (Drinking Facilities for Chilled Water) 1986*.
- Drinking fountainand and other water sources must meet the installation and maintenance guidelines for public institutions and in the public space.
- Water coolers allow us to serve cold water at a low cost – more public and private places make chilled water accessible.
Get to know the path of water to our tap
Drinking water goes through a long and rigorous process until it becomes suitable for drinking.
Step 1: pumping from the water sources – the water sources are located in all parts of the country, and their quality may be affected by a variety of environmental factors, therefore they are tested for dozens of microbial, chemical and radioactive factors to ensure their suitability for drinking. The water is supplied after it has been tested, treated if necessary and disinfected. The drinking water supply in Israel is based on pumping of groundwater (mainly from mountain and coastal aquifers), surface water (the Sea of Galilee, streams and springs), and desalinated sea water (the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea).
Step 2: treatment facilities – any source of water that does not meet the requirements and exhibits deteriorating sanitary conditions of the production facility or even potential danger of water pollution, does not provide drinking water. They can only be supplied after they have undergone treatment that ensured their suitability for drinking through the treatment facilities. The treatment facilities operate according to an operation plan, created and strictly monitored by the Ministry of Health. They are equipped with control and warning systems, so that any malfunction or deterioration in water quality is reported to the water supplier and the Ministry of Health, and if necessary the supply from the treatment facility is stopped.
Step 3: the arrival of water to the main supply systems and supply networks in localities – water storage and transport systems are closed and isolated. These systems also have to comply with regulations for planning and maintaining continuous flow in order to maintain the quality of the water, therefore the water is also routinely monitored in the local supply systems by the water suppliers (water corporations and local authorities).
Step 4: the arrival of the water to the supply systems inside the buildings – the last stage of the arrival of the water to our tap at home, in an educational institution, a restaurant or the workplace. All the pipeline parts of the various water systems must also comply with the regulations and standards (IS 5452) in order to ensure the quality of water at the end points.
How is water quality guaranteed?
The security system includes installing regulations, writing guidelines and procedures, approving water plans and supervising the work of water suppliers. The purpose of the regulations is to protect public health by establishing stringent drinking water quality requirements, conditions and instructions regarding drinking water sources, water pumping facilities and water supply systems, instructions regarding water treatment and quality control as well as reporting and publication duties.
Water is a product that is continuously supplied, therefore it is not possible to check and confirm every drop of it. In Israel and around the world, the water quality is primarily based on water pollution prevention and maintainance of the water quality through the processes of the system planning, maintenance and operation, as well as through the continuous monitoring of several parameters and sampling of water systems at all stages of supply. In the water test, biological and chemical components from natural and unnatural sources are inspected. The water supplied for drinking is tested and undergoes a thorough and comprehensive treatment to remove the unwanted components that may be harmful to human health.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for ensuring water quality so that the public receive safe drinking water.
Are minerals and other additives added to the drinking water?
- The raw water intended for drinking must undergo various treatments before it is approved by the Ministry of Health. Most of the time only a disinfectant needs to be used, but there are water sources that require additional treatment to remove pollutants and improve water quality. To ensure that the materials used to treat drinking water are of high quality and will not impair the quality of the water or adversely affect human health, all materials are under constant supervision and control and must meet the quality requirements detailed in Israeli standards of the IS 5438 series, standards that are based on international standards (mostly European or American).
- Disinfectants: as in most developed countries in the world, the water in Israel is chlorinated and supplied with a residual chlorine concentration, between 0.5 to 0.1 mg/l (a safe concentration for use without impact on health). The addition of chlorine and the requirement for a residual concentration in the water ensure that microbial infections do not develop in the water supply system (reservoirs and pipes).
And what about minerals and other additives?
Fluoride – although according to all the literature fluoridation was found to be the most effective method of reducing dental disease, water fluoridation was stopped in 2014, and today there is no proactive fluoridation of water in Israel. For more information about fluoride, its importance to dental health and fluoridation in Israel.
In recent years, the proportion of desalinated water to all drinking water has been increasing in Israel. Due to the fact that water undergoes membrane processes in which almost all minerals are removed, the need and possibility to enrich the water is examined:
- Calcium – is added as a complementary treatment in all desalination facilities, both for the purpose of stabilizing the water and for health reasons, as this mineral is vital to the body and is highly available in drinking water.
- Magnesium – is important for metabolic processes in the body and found naturally in foods and drinking water (originated in groundwater and surface water). The Ministry of Health examines the need and possibility to add it to desalinated water (a process that is not yet common around the world), and promotes a pilot on the subject. For more information on magnesium, its importance, sources, the daily recommended amount and the position of the Ministry of Health.
Why does tap water taste differently in different places?
Although the water looks the same at each site, people have different tastes. The reason for this is that the sources of water are somewhat different – desalinated water, surface water and groundwater from different sources (groundwater or upper flow). On its way to our tap, the water dissolves natural minerals that add a characteristic flavor to each supply area. Despite the difficulty to get used to the drinking water in another locality, you should know that the change of taste does not mean a change of water quality. You should know that this is also an acquired taste and you can get used to it.
Some people are more sensitive to the smell of chlorine present in the tap water. One possible solution is letting the water sit, so that most of the chlorine will evaporate, and cooling the water (put of a jug of water in the refrigerator). Then the smell will not be noticeable.
Is it recommended to drink from home purification facilities?
It is common today to purchase home purification facilities in order to improve the comfort and availability of use, and some claim to improve the taste, but there is no regulatory requirement or recommendation in this regard. You should know that these facilities must comply with the requirements of Israeli standards (IS 1505: Drinking Water Treatment Systems for Domestic Use), which among other things require a connection to an approved source of drinking water only. It is very important to mainten the facility in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions as poor maintenance can cause deterioration in the water quality.
In addition, there are water cooling facilities mainly in the public space – institutions, businesses and public places. The installation and maintenance of these facilities is carried out by the site manager or the local authority.
Any individual may influence the accessibility of tap water, and especially chilled water, which is preferred by most people. You can contact those responsible at institutions such as the workplace, public and private places and the local authority and request to install water fountains and chilled water facilities in those places.
Good to know
According to the regulations, every consumer in Israel has the right to order water tests at his home from the water supplier for microbial and metal agents (lead, iron and copper) at the cost that the supplier defined and published on its website. Therefore, if there is a concern that the water quality in your home is not poor, it is recommended to order a sample and carry out corrective actions according to the samples: from cleaning the system to replacing pipes and accessories.
And what can we do to improve the water quality in our home?
There are several measures the consumer can also take to ensure the quality of the drinking water:
- For drinking and cooking – tap water is high quality and safe for use for drinking and cooking. It is recommended to be careful and avoid:
- Water that has been standing in the tap for a long time (overnight or after vacation) – it is recommended to let some water flow and only then use it.
- The hot water line
- Water with high turbidity levels or color. If the phenomenon is common, it is recommended to order a home test from the water supplier.
- If you use home treatment facilities – such as water bars or filters of various kinds – it is very important to purchase products that comply with Israeli Standard 1505 and mainten the facilities according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- When renovating or building, make sure you install accessories that comply with Israeli Standard 5452 (the list of products that have been tested and adapted to drinking water is published on the Standards Institute website).
Current information about the water quality in your locality can be found on the website of the Ministry of Health: "My Water".
- Whoever manages or owns a restaurant, dining venue, café or similar place where food is served, must ensure that every costumer is served a pitcher of cool drinking water, free of charge.
- It is forbidden to charge for such water.
- Violation of the obligation to serve chilled water free of charge is a criminal offense punishable by a fine.
- Also, a public building as defined in the Planning and Development Law (for example a convenience store whose larger than 350 square meters) where self-service is practiced – chilled water dispenser and drinking glasses must be installed at a central, visible location.