In areas like Orangeville where the main source of drinking water is groundwater from aquifers, residents normally experience “hard” water due to the high mineral content present in the water.
The minerals present in the water are healthy to drink but can inhibit the cleaning effect of detergent and soap and cause corrosion in the plumbing system of a property. Hard water can also result in the build-up of minerals on surfaces such as pipes causing scale build-up and impeding water flow.
How do water softeners work?
To combat the effects of hard water, water softeners work to exchange hardness ions (calcium and magnesium) for salt (sodium) ions. This exchange occurs within the resin tank of the water softener when water flows through the resin beads and hardness ions trade places with salt ions. This ion exchange makes the water softer but also significantly increases the salinity (or salt content) of the water. The softer water that results from the process improves the functionality of soaps and detergents and prevents some of the adverse impacts hard water has on plumbing fixtures and appliances.
How do water softeners impact water sources?
Despite its many benefits, the high salt content of softened water has some hard impacts on water resources and the environment.
After the softened water is used, the backwash goes down the drain, enters the Town’s wastewater system and travels to the wastewater treatment plant where it is treated before being released to the Credit River. Wastewater treatment plants remove pollutants through settling ( in sedimentation basins) and biological degradation; but salt cannot be removed using these traditional treatment methods - as a result, the dissolved salt in the treated wastewater is
released into the receiving water body where it has the ability to harm fish, plants and drinking water supplies. The potential for reuse of treated wastewater by downstream water users for irrigation and industrial purposes is also adversely impacted as many agricultural and industrial processes are salt- sensitive.
What can I do?
- Water softeners regenerate to remove the hardness ions that have accumulated in the resin beads and recharge the beads with salt. Older “time-based” softener models regenerate at set increments, whereas on-demand systems monitor the amount of water used so that the system can regenerate only when needed. By regenerating only when it is needed, on-demand systems use less salt, less water, and less energy, saving you operating costs.
- Determine the right size of water softener needed for your household. The right softener size is calculated based on average daily household water use and the average water hardness in your region (average grains per U.S. gallon of hardness in your tap water). The average water hardness in Orangeville is 19 grains per gallon (325 mg/L).
- Set your softener to its most efficient setting. Knowing your water hardness level will also help you set your softener accordingly and save on salt.
- Consider alternative technologies. Alternatives that prevent scale buildup without the use of salt, and sometimes even without water are available. The Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) or Nucleation Assisted Crystallization (NAC) system has been shown to reduce scale buildup on water heater elements by over 90 per cent, matching the effectiveness of salt-based water softeners. The NAC/TAC units need no salt or water to operate. For more information visit: http://watersoftenerfacts.ca/how-softeners-work/
- Invest in an efficient water softener. Purchase softeners that are certified to the NSF/ANSI 44 Performance Standard. This certification states that the softener will remove a minimum of 3,350 grains of hardness per pound of salt used and not use more than 5 U.S. gallons of water per 1,000 grains of hardness removed. This is a minimum standard.
For more information on water softeners visit : http://watersoftenerfacts.ca/