The city of Jerusalem has planned a pilot program to reuse water from mikvaot (ritual baths). The water from each mikva will be purified daily and returned by the next morning.
Jerusalem municipal officials are working with the Health Ministry and the Religious Affairs council to assure that the project will be conducted in accordance with health standards as well as halakhah (Jewish Law). Municipal official Yitzchak Hanou, head of the municipality's Religious Structures Branch, explained to Israel National News that Halakhically, mikvaot must have a minimum amount of rainwater, while the rest can be "drawn" water that "touches" the rainwater. "The recycled water that will be streamed back into the mikvah will be no different in that respect than the other 'drawn' water," he said.
There are 35 buildings with mikvaot in Jerusalem, and most of them have multiple mikvaot. Each mikvah contains many dozens of liters of water, and the water is replaced each day. Recycling the mikva water could save thousands of liters of water each year, which would also save money from the municipal budget.
The Finance Committee is expected to approve the project in the near future. The pilot will cost 200,000 shekels to put into effect, and the first mikvah to be fitted with the water recycling network will be in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.
Men are not required to immerse in a mikvah (other than before Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur), but many often do so - daily, only on Sabbath eve, or on other occasions - in accordance with custom. Married women, however, are required to immerse approximately once a month, to purify themselves of the "niddah" of the menstrual cycle. Statistics for 2008 show that women's mikvaot in Jerusalem were used 180,000 times in the course of the year.
Hanou said that if the new project succeeds, it will have a dramatic impact. “As the pilot is expanded to more mikvaot," he said, "it will become less expensive, it will save a significant amount of water, and will make Jerusalem a positive example for cities throughout the country," he said.
Jerusalem mikvaot do not used special filters, Hanou said. "Some of them are Halakhically OK, and some are not," he said, "but we follow the rabbinic ruling not to use them at all, so as not to cause confusion. This is why the mikvah water must be replaced each day - and why our new system is so important."
In addition to the city's 35 mikvaot, two more are under construction - in Ramat Beit HaKerem and the Old City - and construction on two others is about to begin, in Har Nof and Arnona. Work on a second mikvah in Har Homa is set to begin in six months' time.