Show’s anchors set out to investigate the mineral water industry in Israel and found that the big mineral water bottling companies bottle water pumped from wells dug by the water utility Mekorot, not only spring water.
By Adaya Fiterman

Some mineral water bottles contain regular water from the Mekorot water utility’s drills, as opposed to spring water, claims the investigative television show Hamakor.

The show’s anchors, journalists Raviv Drucker and Miki Rosenthal, set out to investigate the mineral water industry in Israel. They found that the big mineral water bottling companies Ein Gedi, Neviot and Mayanot Eden (Eden Springs) bottle water pumped from wells dug by the water utility Mekorot, not only spring water.

The case of Ein Gedi had been quite widely known. Not widely known was that Neviot stopped using its original spring entirely and relies solely on water from Mekorot wells.

Mayanot Eden pumps its water from the Salukia Spring in the Golan Heights, near the town of Katzrin. Hamakor found that until a few years ago, Salukia served both the company and the residents of Katzrin. But as demand for mineral water ramped up, the company took it all, and the people of Katzrin were delivered water pumped by Mekorot.

Demand for mineral water kept ramping up and the Salukia couldn’t meet the demand. Thus, Hamakor learned, Mayanot Eden also began using the Mekorot well. A pipeline was laid from the well to the Salukia. The tourist attraction part of the spring (now known as the Mayanot spring ) gets filled from the Mekorot pipeline. So in fact Mayanot Eden’s bottled water is a combination of well and spring water.

Neviot used to get water from the Ein Zahav spring near Kiryat Shmona, which had been a local tourist attraction until the company started pumping its water. The upshot was a battle ultimately won by the region’s residents: Neviot had to stop pumping from Ein Zahav. Neviot today boasts of having developed a new method of water production: no more springs, but pumping from an aquifer in the Upper Galilee. The rub is, says Hamakor, that in fact it’s getting its water from a Mekorot well called Hula 7, which also supplies the residents of Metulla and Kiryat Shmona.

Neviot states clearly that the water originates from a well, but it’s no new production method, says Hamakor. It’s just piggybacking on Mekorot’s well.

Ein Gedi bottles water taken from the Ein Gedi spring by the Dead Sea. The spring is the sole water source for Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which is right next door, as it were. The mineral water company Ein Gedi reached an arrangement with the kibbutz, under which if it pumps more than a certain amount of water from the spring, it has to reimburse water to the kibbutz.

“Let them pay royalties”

Israel should consider making the mineral water companies pay royalties to the state, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan told the show: “They’re enjoying a natural resource that belongs to the people,” he said.

Asked for a comment, all three companies pointed the investigators to a single expert, Prof. Yona Amitai, a toxicologist and former senior official at the Health Ministry. Asked about tests of Neviot water, he said they had relied on statements by the company, not his personal inspection of the production site.

Asked on the show if he knew where Neviot got its water, Amitai said he did not know down to “the resolution level of which spring.” They told him on the show that it wasn’t using a spring at all, but was taking water from a Mekorot well.

Quality tests by the Health Ministry of water taken from the companies, and from tapwater in the homes of Drucker, Rosenthal and Erdan, found no bacterial contamination in any. In all cases the water met Israeli standards.