Although the Kinneret's water level has reached the black line and underground aquifers are seriously depleted, the quality of tap water remains high, and there is no need to purchase bottled water to ensure safety, Health Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev told The Jerusalem Post. Lev was asked to comment on the ministry's annual water quality report, prepared by ministry environmental health expert and engineer Shalom Goldberger and his colleagues, which was released for publication on Tuesday. "Who says bottled water is of higher quality than what we get through the tap?" Lev added. "This has always been our policy, and it has not changed due to the latest report or the current water shortage." The ministry regularly supervises water testing by municipalities and local authorities, and some 87,000 samples were taken around the country out of 90,000 planned samples. Some local authorities did not conduct enough tests or have not improved their infrastructure enough, leading to a small minority of cases in which samples showed microbial, metallic or chemical contaminants. "Israel has to do more desalination and take other means to increase the supply of potable water," said Lev. "Standards must be enforced better. But that doesn't mean the water supply is not safe. We have enough laws, but we can't easily punish local authorities that don't improve." According to the report, only 0.25 percent of samples tested for microbes had excessive levels (220 out of 87,000). In comparison, the contamination level was 6.5% in the 1991 water quality report. Many of the local authorities with excessive microbial levels are Arab, which have inadequate budgets for rehabilitating their water infrastructure. They include Barta'a in the Hadera area, Beit Zarzir in the Jezreel Valley, Jatt and Baka al-Gharbiya in the Hadera region and Kafr Kassem near Petah Tikva. The highest level of microbial contamination, however, was in Ma'ayan Baruch in the Upper Galilee, Metzar in the Hadera area and Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem. Metallic contamination was highest in Hurfish, Shomrat, Fureidis, Kibbutz Ga'ash, Netzer Sireni, Barkan, Gamzu, Holit, and Mishmar David. In the report's section on water fluoridation, the report said that only 72% of the population receives fluoridated water. The communities with the highest rates of fluoridated water are Nazareth, Ashkelon, Haifa, Hadera, Rehovot and Tel Aviv, with the lowest levels in Ramle and Kinneret.