Did you know that water softeners are affecting our water quality?

Every bag of salt consumed by water softeners eventually makes its way down into the aquifer, our source of drinking water here in San Benito County.

Households using water softeners add up to 100 pounds of salt a month.

How is this pollution happening?

Salts and minerals are not easily removed at the wastewater treatment plant, because the process used to perform such a treatment, desalinization, is very expensive and energy-intensive.

In San Benito County, after the wastewater treatment process, the water is then allowed to percolate back into the aquifer, or is released into a local stream. If the salt level of the water released is high, everyone is affected. By lowering the quality of our entire groundwater supply, the water is not as useful to agriculture because it can burn and stunt crops. In addition, the flora and fauna of San Juan Creek and the Pajaro River are affected by the unnaturally salty environment.

You can help solve the problem of salt pollution. What can you do?

Consider not using your water softener. And, if you do not already own a water softener, don't buy one. Portable Exchange type water softeners are the most environmentally friendly. A number of water softener dealers offer this service. These softeners do not release used brine into our wastewater stream. Instead, the brine and resin, which are contained in a cartridge, are replaced regularly by the water softener company and disposed of at another location.

Make sure that you water softener has an "on-demand" setting so that it regenerates itself only when needed, not just on a timer. If your water softener does not have an "on-demand" setting, consider upgrading to an "on-demand" model. You'll need to use about 25-30 % less salt with an "on-demand" model - a salt savings of 25-40 pounds each month! Meanwhile, set your timer to recharge at the longest recharge interval that will soften y our water and turn the unit off when you go on vacation.

Set your water softener for the correct hardness level. Many water softeners when installed are set at the highest salt-use setting instead of the setting mot appropriate for local water conditions. In San Benito County, the hardness is usually 22-29 grams per gallon. A higher setting may mean that your water softener is using more salt than it needs.

If you have an older water softener . . .

That regenerates on a timer and not by the amount of water it has used, you can use these tables to increase the salt efficiency of your softener. You can use up to 50% less salt by maximizing your salt efficiency!

Water Provider Hardness (grains per gallon)
City of Hollister 22
Sunnyslope Co. Water 24
City of San Juan Bautista 29

Use the owner's manual to adjust the following settings on your water softener. If you don't have the manual or are having trouble changing the settings, call your water softener manufacturer or the Water Resources Association (831-637-4378) for more assistance.

Number of Persons in Household 1 2 3 4 5 6 More than 6
Number of Regeneration Cycles needed per week 1 1 2 2 2 3 3

Does it help to use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride in my water softener?

Not really. In San Benito County, it is the chloride in the salt that is the primary problem so whether you use potassium chloride or sodium chloride in your water softener does not really matter. Both affect water quality.

In other areas, such as Monterey County, high sodium levels in groundwater make the use of potassium chloride a positive alternative to regular salt.

Why does my water have a noticeable flavor?

The flavor comes from a high mineral content. High levels of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals make the water hard and give it more flavor than water with lower levels of minerals. Calcium and magnesium are two minerals important to good health, and drinking water with these minerals is a convenient way to get additional amounts of these important elements. Some people, however dislike water with higher mineral levels because it requires more soap to lather and can leave spots when it dries.

What are local water providers doing to decrease the hardness of the water?

Sunnyslope County Water District, the City of Hollister, the City of San Juan Bautista, and the San Benito County Water District are working hard to solve the problem of hard water in San Benito County. In the next few years, soft water form the Central Valley Project will be blended with local groundwater to decrease the hardness of the municipal water supply.

In addition, the Sunnyslope Counter Water District . . . . . .

LESSALT . . . . . . . .

This, in turn, will make the water more palatable and will lessen, and eventually end the need for home water softeners.

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