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Monday, October 18, 2021

Redesigning Water Softeners

Protect your health and the environment.

We were given an RV portable water softener. As I watched the rusty-colored salty sludge ooze into the surrounding grass, I didn’t feel good. I mean, deep in the seat of my root chakra. My thoughts were whirling. I needed to learn more. 

Arizona water is high in naturally occurring minerals, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and iron which can cause problems for the appliances in our homes.

Traditional salt systems contain two chambers: in the resin tank, a process called ion exchange takes place. It contains small resin beads filled with sodium ions. As the water flows through the resin tank, the hard minerals attach to the beads and sodium ions are exchanged into the water. This saltier soft water then flows into your home. When the beads become saturated, the system regenerates by flushing the beads with salt and water, flushing the system and dumping the waste into the drain.  

Ion exchange softeners are wonderful for our pipes and appliances reducing limescale, appliances last longer, reduce water spots and rings on dishes and bathtubs. However, there are serious disadvantages. 

Ion exchange water softeners are void of important minerals. Side effects of mineral deficiency include eczema, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. There are also the potential health risks for people on low sodium diets; the exchange of hard minerals for sodium adds 7.5 milligrams per quart for each grain per gallon of hardness removed. 

Using potassium instead of salt may cause problems for those with kidney disorders and disease, hypertension and diabetes.  Softened water dissolves heavy metals including lead faster because of materials and components found in service lines and home plumbing.   

Ion exchange softeners are also an environmental disaster: in fact, some states have banned the use of salt water softeners. Arizona is headed in this direction far too slowly.  

Scottsdale was the first municipality to directly address salinity from water softeners, issuing an ordinance in 2014 offering residents a rebate if they improve the efficiency of their existing ion-exchange water softener, upgrade to a potable service, or remove the system altogether. For other communities, the debate continues. 

These systems waste an incredible amount of water. The EPA estimates a typical ion exchange softener uses about 25 gallons a day or up to 10,000 gallons per year. Sewage treatment plants are not designed to remove overwhelming amounts of salt. It takes only one teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water and there is no easy way to remove it.

Once dispersed into the ground, it impacts soil structure, soil permeability thus poisoning and killing plants, which renders the soil useless for future planting. It’s also toxic to house plants, fish, aquatic life, and amphibians.

Think about the parks, lakes, and farmers trying to grow your food.  Municipalities are spending millions of dollars putting equipment in place to render the problem. Arizona is in extreme drought at the moment. It can’t afford to waste water flushing out excess salt.

What can we do? Water conditioners have the same outcome; however, they are able to keep your water mineralized. These systems alter the chemical structure of minerals so they do not stick to your pipes. Germany uses a technology called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) studied extensively by Arizona State University.

An Electronic Descaler manufactured by Aqua Genesis is a device that wraps around water pipes, sending electrical impulses into the water and disrupting hard water minerals, which drain without attaching to plumbing.

NuvoH2O’s compact system uses an eco-friendly process to condition water using FDA-approved citric acid, decreasing the pH of hard water preventing minerals from forming. 

We can’t wait for Arizona to come together and outright ban ion exchange water softeners. It’s up to us to take responsibility to protect our health, wildlife, and Mother Nature. 

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