Desalination plant in Hadera 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS / Nir Elias)
Prime Minister and former health minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Deputy Health
Minister Ya’acov Litzman decided on Wednesday to launch a pilot project in
Ashkelon to restore the magnesium to drinking water that is lost in the process
The project, whose extent and time frame will be
determined by an inter-ministry team, is regarded as urgent due to the
increasing share of purified sea water that is being used for
Israel has desalinated more of its water supply than any other
country in the world.
Magnesium is a mineral that is vital to health
because, as research has shown, it maintains the heartbeat and thus prevents
heart attacks. It is estimated that each year, several hundred lives would be
saved by regular consumption of magnesium in desalinated water, in either
regular rainwater or bottled mineral water.
The pilot program was
recommended by Litzman, his director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu and other senior
ministry officials. Ashkelon was chosen for the first stage since residents
depend on desalinated water there.
There has been no controversy about
adding the magnesium from a health perspective, but the cost has been debated
for more than three years – with the Treasury and the Water Authority on one
side, and the Health Ministry on the other. The Water Authority maintains that
adding the mineral would cost hundreds of millions of shekels annually, thus
significantly hiking the consumer price of tap water, which is already high. The
Health Ministry counters that the cost will be much lower and not top NIS 20
There have also been arguments over the government’s
decades-long policy of adding fluoride to water, which does not appear in
adequate amounts in the natural supply. It is not expensive, and global
research has proven that it significantly protects teeth – especially childrens’
– from cavities. It is also widely regarded by health experts as absolutely
safe, but extreme groups in various parts of the world deny this despite the
A meeting to work out details of the pilot project will be held
on Thursday between Litzman and Harel Locker, director-general of the Prime
Minister’s Office, in participation with Water Authority and Treasury staff.