Softener restrictions and bans - Are they real?

Softener restrictions and bans - Are they real? - Cascadian Water

Salt Softener Legal Problems

If you live in an area or region affected by softener regulations you are keenly aware of the situation. In short yes, there are areas of the country, even whole states, where salt based softeners are banned or restricted. If you live in areas where salt softeners are banned then you already know the ban is very real.

Water softener environmental problems

Salt based water softeners use an ion exchange process where salt is exchanged for hardness. A byproduct of ion exchange is salty waste water. Salty waste water is drained into a municipal sewer system where treatment does not remove the salt. The salt is then passed into the environment, usually a river or other body of water. This raises the amount of salt in the river and eventually groundwater that is recharged by the water from the river. Increased salt levels in our groundwater alter its mineral composition, impacting our freshwater supply and its uses.

Rising levels of salt in our water supply is problematic for farmers who rely upon this water for crops. Simply put, high salt levels in the water used by farmers damages and even kills their crops. If rising levels of salt were ignored and allowed to continue we could see a time where farmers are not able to produce crops to feed our nation. Once salt levels are high enough to damage crops there is no practical way to reduce that salinity via man made solution. Perhaps time would eventually dilute the concentration or flush the salt to the ocean but this is not known.

How salt softeners add salt to our environment. Image

If the municipality recycles the water, say for golf courses or parks the elevated salt levels can cause problems with grasses and plants

Softener restrictions and bans are very real

Rising levels of salt in our water supply is such a serious problem. There are several areas around the county, where there is an outright ban on salt based water softeners. Some might suggest switching from typical softener salt (sodium chloride) to an alternate salt (potassium chloride). In this context, it doesn't make a difference, both are banned. Because the ion exchange process cannot work without these salts alternatives must be considered. Check out what the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County has to say here.

Salt softener restrictions

There are softener restrictions around the country which dictate where the waste from a salt softener can be disposed of.  Many states that have regulations preventing disposal of salty softener waste into on-site septic systems. This effectively eliminates salt softeners as a treatment for hard water where there is no municipal sewer treatment option available.

What options do you have?

There are several technologies or processes that address hard water problems without the use of salt. You might be looking to soften water without using salt. If you are, you may find a treatment system you absolutely love even more than a salt based softener. One of the oldest salt free technologies is polyphosphate. Polyphosphate is used by many municipalities across the nation to control mineral scale buildup, to protect distribution pipes and in-home plumbing.

PolyHalt® ion bond softeners offer a multifaceted approach to water treatment, efficiently addressing issues such as hard water, iron, manganese, low pH levels, and silica problems in a single unit. These systems, which range in size from point-of-use to large-scale applications suitable for hotels and dairy farms, eliminate the necessity for separate sediment and chlorine filters by incorporating these options directly into the unit. Notably, the cartridge-based structure of PolyHalt® systems represents an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional salt softeners, mitigating the production of salty wastewater and eliminating the need for power. This makes them a favorable choice for both homeowners and businesses seeking a comprehensive and sustainable water treatment solution.

Softener bans and restrictions are not new and they have not been reversed since adopted. Texas, Kentucky and Montana all rewrote state septic tank regulations well over a decade ago.1

UPDATE: since writing this blog many more municipalities have enacted or are considering salt softener restrictions. These include Scottsdale AZ and the Phoenix AZ metro area.

There is a lot of information online about softener bans here is one easy to read and informative article to get started2

1. Fighting water softener bans; Water Quality Products; Carlyn Meyer, Nov 21, 2003.

2. Salinity Fact Sheet: Southern California Salinity Coalition, 2009


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