Water Softening - The Hard Facts

Since 1998, over 85 billion gallons of recycled water have been produced for irrigation in Monterey County. That’s 85 billion gallons of water that have not been pumped out of our aquifers!  Salt, especially from sodium chloride water softeners, is threatening this resource because it damages plants by restricting their root absorption.

Tips on How to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Water Softeners 

If you don’t own one, consider not buying a water softener. The best way to protect our groundwater is to add as few additional minerals and salts as possible. But if you already own a water softener, there are ways to lessen their environmental impact.

  • Consider using a portable exchange water softener. A number of water softener companies offer this service. Instead of discharging brine to the wastewater system, the used brine is picked up by the water softener company. The salts can then be disposed of under controlled conditions.
  • Make sure your water softener has an on-demand setting -- not just a timer. If your water softener is an older model, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient on-demand softener. This means that the machine will only recharge when it really needs it, not just when it’s timer tells it to recharge, based on a pre-programmed recharge volume. An on-demand model tracks how much water you actually use, and regenerates only when needed. With an efficient on-demand softener, you can save 30 percent or more on salt alone.
  • If your water softener is the older type that regenerates based on a timer, make sure it recharges at the lowest effective rate, and turn it off when you go on vacation.
  • Set your water softener for the correct hardness level. Many water softeners have multiple hardness settings but are set at the highest hardness level when they are manufactured. In Monterey County, water softeners should be set between 15 and 30 grains per gallon. Setting the softener for the proper hardness will save you money on salt and help protect our groundwater resources.
  • Consider switching from sodium-chloride to potassium-chloride water softener
  1. Why use Potassium Chloride Softener Salt?
  2. How does a Water Softener Work
  3. Sodium Softening Problems
  4. Sodium-Free Softening

Water softeners are a major source of sodium in recycled water. Switching to potassium will improve the quality of recycled water so it can be used for all types of irrigation including golf courses, green belts, and athletic fields. Every gallon of recycled water used is one gallon not pumped from our precious drinking water supplies. That’s good for our community and the threatened Steelhead trout.