Israel's National Water Carrier

Two items were in the news this week concerning where Israelis get their drinking water.

The first is good news: the water crisis, which we’ve been suffering through for nearly a decade (this winter appears to be a welcome exception), may be coming to an end in the next year. And by 2020 or so, we may actually have a water surplus!

Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, told the Knesset Economics Committee this week that, due to increased desalination of seawater (Israel has six desalination facilities), by 2013, 75% of Israeli households will be using desalinated water, alleviated some of the two billion cubic meters of water the country is currently missing. All this extra water will allow for the rehabilitation of Israel’s Coastal Aquifer and may lead to a restoration of safe water levels in the Sea of Galilee.

Even better: by 2030, Mekorot predicts that Israel’s agricultural irrigation – which uses more water than households – will be completely based on desalinated and brackish water.

That covers water from the tap. But Israelis also get their water from bottles – mineral, spring and filtered water – and that’s the other piece of news that surfaced this week: the coming restaurant water wars.

Strauss Water plans to offer restaurants free purified water from its Tami 4 water filter systems if they serve the water in pitchers bearing the company’s brand and – more importantly – they stop selling mineral water from Strauss’s competitors: the companies that make Mei Eden, Neviot, San Pellegrino and Sam Benedetto. Strauss sees it as a way to sell more Tami 4 machines.

Strauss will pay the restaurants a premium, given that the new arrangement will cut into the eateries’ bottom lines (mineral water sales can make up to 2% of a restaurant’s sales). The bottled water industry in Israel is valued at $270 million; 38% of that is sold in restaurants.

The restaurant industry is skeptical. The Strauss premium would have to be pretty high to make up lost revenue. And an article in Ynet points out that Strauss has only concluded one restaurant deal so far, so it seems like the road to its marketing success will be a dry one for a while, but Strauss is one of Israel’s biggest food conglomerates, so it may not go thirsty for too long.