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Water quality in the desert - is purifying an option?

Saar mentions to avoid agricultural water for drinking and I expect this situation will be obvious.  I also expect all bottled and tap water to be reliable.  But Saar includes in his gear list water purification tablets as optional.  He claims that water in the south "is not of adequate purification quality." Yet he also notes he never used his tablets.  What are the water issues in the south?  e.g. e. coli, giardia?
Under what circumstances might I need to use tablets or a filter?
Thanks for any information you can provide.


There are very few hikers on the INT that use tablets and filters. This is why they are "optional" on the gear list.
North of Arad there is no need to purify water. In the desert after flash floods pits are full with water
that can be purified. Some pits have water for several weeks. So if you hike in winter and want to purify water
it is doable. Ibex and other animals drink the same water. Some water (not all) in the south is not
of purification quality because the salt and mineral content is too high.

My bottom line is: You don't really need tablets and filters. Caching is a good solution or carrying water
for two days along few stretches in the desert, unless you insist on purifying water.


What I really meant to say is: "I don't take a filter or tablets with me".  

I usually do take a filter (Actually, I've never seen anyone else do it in Israel, although some take pills). I'd say that with a good filter (I recommend MSR Miniworks EX, as it's fast, easy to clean and contrary to some other filters, it withstands abuse and dirty water very well) you could filter almost everywhere in Israel. The only exceptions are filtering water contaminated with phosphates, chemicals or sewage - but you won't find THAT on the INT. One of my INT through-hikes was with filter, and it saved me a lot of money, time and weight.

We plan to hike the INT in Dec/Jan.  "Dooable" with water treatment in winter in the desert is certainly encouraging.  Is it reliably dooable in winter., ie is there always water in the pits to filter?  Filters are great for bacterial avoidance but not so good with salt and minerals.  Has anyone had problems filtering in the desert?

The main issue: You cannot rely on water purification in the desert. Only if it rains.  Until today we had hardly any rain
in the country, and it is December. Plan on caching or take water for two days at times.

If there is water in the pits it is of adequate purification quality. In Ein Akev water is salty and cannot be purified.

Yagil said: He is probably the only one who takes a filter with him. 99% of the hikers cache water or carry for two days.
This is my recommendation too.


November 2015 update

We had a lot of rain in the desert in the month of November. Some pits are still full with water.
It does not guarantee water in January 16, though. Always verify if you plan on purifiying water in the desert.

water in negev march 2016

Hello, we are about to go hikking in the negev near Mitzpe Ramon a couple of days by our own. We would like to know if we  have chance to find water in  ein hava and in ein akev. Was it a rainy or dry winter in this place? Thanks for your help!

Gev Hava: I was in Gev Hava (Hava pit) on February 16th. There was sufficient water for filtering and/or purification.
I believe there is sufficient water there now but you must filter and purify / boil it before driniking.
The alternative to Gev Hava is Ein Hava (Hava spring). It is located ~750 meters east (right turn) of km 22.6 of day 12s.
There is always water there but refill is very slow. Water runs very slowly through the rock.
Here is a picture of Ein Hava.

A reliable water source in the area is a private water chache by Haim Berger.

Ein Akev - There is always water there, but it is salty and not suitable for driniking and inadequate for purification/filtering.
By Akev night camp Haim Berger has another private water cache. His contact details are in the preface.

Thanks for your answer.
When you say "Hava pit", you mean the spring near Hava night camp?

Both Hava pit and Ein Hava (Hava spring) are slightly off the INT. They are both located 2-3 km from Hava night camp.

If you come from Mizpe Ramon you get to Nahal Hava. If you have the guide look at map 45.

You will go down to Nahal Hava on a green trail. At the bottom of the descent you hit a blue trail.
If you turn right (east) you will get to Ein Hava (Hava spring) after ~750 meters.
At the trails crossing the INT turns left (west) in Nahal  Hava. After ~350 meters the INT (blue trail)
climbs to Hava night camp. At that point there is a side trail that goes in the narrow canyon until
you arrive to Hava Pit which is not a spring but there is water there.
From both Hava pit or Ein Hava (spring) you need
to go back to the INT. The night camp is at top of the climb from Nahal Hava.
If you don't have the guide I hope you are not confused now.


I have bought the guide, I will look at the map.

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