Gov't okays adding magnesium to drinking water

Netanyahu, Litzman launch pilot project to restore magnesium to drinking water that is lost in desalination.

Desalination plant in Hadera 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS / Nir Elias)
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 of desalination.
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 drinking.
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 million annually.
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 evidence.
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.