Hard water is water that is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and silica. These minerals can cause serious problems for heat-exchange surfaces, pipes and water fixtures throughout your home and business. Over time, pipes could become completely clogged by scale buildup. When limescale builds up on a heating element, it insulates and prevents it from performing efficiently.
Minerals such as calcium and magnesium, both have a positive charge. Sodium, the mineral that water softeners use to replace hardness ions, also has a positive charge, so none of these ions are attracted to each other. However, sodium's charge is weaker than that of calcium and magnesium. If ions aren't attracted to each other, how can an exchange take place? There is one other crucial element needed to make the process work: a resin bed consisting of lots of tiny, negatively charged beads.
The salt added to a water softener clings to these beads, since opposites attract. When the calcium and magnesium-rich water flows through the water softener, the negatively charged resin attracts the positively charged ions of calcium and magnesium. Since these ions have a stronger positive charge than sodium ions, the sodium ions get displaced and are exchanged for the naturally occurring calcium and magnesium.
Environmental impact of water softeners
While added salt may not be a detriment to the health of a generally healthy household, the salt that is then discharged from one's home/business into freshwater streams, rivers and aquifers are causing serious damage to our water supplies and aquatic life.In addition, most city wastewater facilities do not have systems in place to remove the added salt from the water during the treatment process. Because agriculture depends on repurposed water coming from wastewater facilities, the water supplied to farmlands are thus supersaturated with the added sodium, damaging crop yields.
What is my state doing to reduce the risks of salt-based softeners?
As we continue to evolve our policies and awareness towards environmental conservation, many states are taking steps towards alternatives to saltwater softening systems. Here is a list of some current initiatives, programs, ordinances and bans put into place within the last decade in various cities/states within the US.