Water Softeners —

The Hard Facts

The problem with water softenersThe Problem With Salt

Since 1998, over 25 billion gallons of recycled water have been produced for irrigation in Monterey County. That¹s 25 billion gallons of water that have not been pumped out of our aquifers!

However, salt, especially from sodium chloride water softeners, is threatening this resource because it damages plants by restricting their root absorption.

How You Can 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 preprogrammed 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.

Why Use Potassium Chloride Softener Salt?

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.

Water Softener DiagramHow Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners take the hardness (magnesium and calcium ions) out of your tap water. Small resin beads in the softener column are coated with sodium. As tap water flows over the resin beads, magnesium and calcium attach to the beads, releasing the sodium into the softened water.

  • Recharging Water Softeners: When the resin beads are full of hardness they have to be cleaned. This process is called regeneration. Old softeners do this using a timer. New efficient softeners have sensors that monitor when regeneration is needed. They regenerate on "demand". All new water softeners in California must regenerate by "demand".
  • Home regeneration: A brine solution is washed over the resin beads to knock off all the hardness molecules and replace sodium on the resin beads again. The hardness and salty water is washed down the drain to the wastewater treatment plant. Efficient water softeners use less water and salt to regenerate saving you money, conserving water, and reducing the amount of salt discharged down the drain.
  • Softener exchange service: A company, such as Culligan or Servi-Soft Rayne, replaces your spent softener column with a fresh one. They regenerate the column's resin beads using salt, but are more efficient.  In the future, this brine may be safely discharged to the ocean. Consider this service as a alternative to home regeneration.

Sodium Softening Problems

  • May be harmful if you are on a salt restricted diet.
  • Binds the soil so thirsty plant roots can't get water.
  • Limits the types of crops and plants that can be grown with recycled water.  Golf course greens are very sensitive to salts, especially sodium.

Sodium-Free Softening

When you purchase potassium instead of sodium salt, you:

  • Provide a dietary source of potassium.
  • Provide an important nutrient for plants watered with potassium-softened water.
  • Improve the quality of recycled water so it can be used for all types of irrigation. In the next few years, our recycled water will be used to irrigate golf courses, green belts and athletic fields.
  • Help protect the environment.
  • Can use it just like sodium salt in your softener.

Potassium Chloride Water Softener Salt Suppliers

The Following Have Potassium In Stock
Business Type Vendor Name Location Phone No.
Hardware Store Ace Hardware of Marina 265 Reservation Rd., Marina (831) 884-9476
  Ace Hardware Prunedale 8065 San Miguel Canyon Rd., Prunedale (831) 663-2610
  Arrow True Value Hardware 7 Williams Rd., Salinas (831) 422-8855
  Forest Hill Ace Hardware 1136 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 372-3284
  The Home Depot 1800 N. Main St., Salinas (831) 443-9600
  The Home Depot 1950 Canyon Del Rey, Seaside (831) 583-0778
  M & S Building Supply 2456 Del Monte Blvd., Monterey (831) 655-7750
  Murphy Lumber 10 W. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley (831) 659-2291
  Orchard Supply & Hardware 800 Playa Ave., Sand City (831) 899-5144
  Orchard Supply & Hardware 1067 N. Davis Rd., Salinas (831) 422-9652
  Pacific Grove Hardware 229 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 646-9144
  Salinas Ace Hardware 1215 S. Main St., Salinas (831) 775-0523
  Sears Northridge Mall, 1700 N. Main St., Salinas (831) 443-7000
       
Grocery Stores Albertson's Food and Drug 2000 California Ave., Sand City (831) 393-1200
  Nob Hill Foods 900 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey (831) 375-8220
       
Water Conditioning Advance Water Systems (Mtry Co. Delivery) 743 41st Ave., Santa Cruz (831) 476-0515
  Aqua Fresh Water Conditioning 443 E. Alisal, Salinas (831) 769-0821
  Aqua Terra Water Service 178 Kidder, Soledad (831) 678-8564
  Crystal Choice Water Softening 519 Parrot St., San Jose (831) 384-7210 or 449-4488
  Culligan Water Conditioning Co. 625 W. Market St., Salinas (831) 755-0500
  Rainsoft 407 Reservation Rd., Marina (831) 883-1780
  Rayne Water of Monterey 1050 Broadway Ave., Seaside (831) 394-3351
  Salt Unlimited (Mtry Co. Delivery) 1665 Rogers Ave., San Jose  (866) 884-7258
  The Water Man Broadway, King City (831) 385-4308
  WaterSource 1200 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville (831) 786-8888
  Wilson's Water Store 949 W. Alisal St., Salinas (831) 422-5216
       
The Following Can Order Potassium
  Ace Hardware Stores    
  Ralph's    
  Safeway    
  Smart-N-Final    
  True Value Hardware Stores