Why Water Softeners are Harmful to the Environment

No one likes hard water in their home. It is rough on your appliances, on your skin, your hair, and your cleaning routine. Water softeners are one way to get rid of hard water, but they cause harm to the environment. Take a look at how they work and how they hurt this precious planet.

What are Water Softeners?

Water softeners are systems that remove the hard minerals in water—such as calcium and magnesium—and replace them with soft minerals, like potassium or salt. One article explains, “On a technical level, this process is called ion exchange…”

A normal softening system includes a tank, inside of which are resin beds. As water flows past the beads, the hard minerals exchange places with the sodium in the beads. After the resin loses its sodium, a recharging process takes place so the system can go on effectively softening water.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? After all, it is just salt and it allows people to enjoy soft water in their homes. However, softeners add a lot of salt to the environment, which has negative effects. After you learn about those effects, you may want to consider using alternatives to water softeners in your home.

Bad for Your Home

Do you have a lush backyard garden that ought to grace the cover of a magazine? Even if your horticultural endeavors are not that spectacular, you might still enjoy cultivating a garden. Usually, water softening systems soften all the water used at a home—including the water that comes through the garden house. As you regularly water your plants, the salt will build up and eventually kill your plants. This is especially true if you live in an area that does not get enough rain to dilute the salty soil.

If you have a water softening system and are not ready to give it up, consider connecting it only to your hot water line. You will still get soft water for showers and washing the dishes, but you spare your garden.

They’re Bad for Your Area

Another one of the hidden risks of water softeners goes beyond your personal environment. As you go about your daily routine—showering, washing your hands, doing the dishes, etc.—a lot of water goes down the drains and to your city’s water source. The salt in your softened water may go to irrigate local parks or crops, thus endangering the plants.

Softened water has even more far-reaching effects. Particularly in areas where water softeners are very common, cities must treat wastewater to reduce the amount of salt in it. What happens to all that salt? As valleycresttakeson.com says, “In places like California sometimes it’s discharged into the ocean which is expensive and can have long-term effects on the aquatic environment.” The salt can also end up in lakes or rivers, where it can cause damage.

Next time you add salt to your water softener, add less. Oftentimes the manufacturer’s directions say that you should use more than you actually need.

They Promote Wastefulness

Softened water is not the best for drinking, so people with softening systems may use a reverse osmosis unit, which, while it does produce drinkable water, also wastes a considerable amount. One FAQ page on reverse osmosis says that the wasted water amounts to about “a couple or three extra toilet flushes a day.” That may not seem like a lot, but when you think about that multiplied across millions of homes every day, you’ll find it adds up to be quite a bit of water.

The wastefulness does not stop there, however. Remember the regeneration process mentioned in the first section of this article? That takes water because the hard minerals must go somewhere; they go into water, which in turn gets flushed out of the tank. This process can use up much water over time, especially if the regeneration cycle is on a timer and takes place more often than necessary.

In conclusion, the harmful effects of water softeners are not obvious at first. However they inarguably have a negative impact on the environment. Some salt-free alternatives to water softeners are available and effective, so give them a look if you use a water softener and want to go green.

Also, check out a Guide about How Water Softeners Work. For it breaks down the various stages of softening + regeneration using helpful illustrations for easier understanding.

Image Source: This is water softener treatment plant product, produce by tact appliances, 7 June 2013, 02:09:14