Ion exchange resin softening is one of the processes approved by the Ministry of Health for the treatment of water intended for human consumption. For example, very hard water in certain city agglomerations is partially
softened before being distributed through the water supply system.
Ion exchange changes the composition of the water. Calcium and magnesium are swapped for sodium. The currently applicable indicator parameter value for sodium is 200 milligrams per liter.
When softening hard water with an initial hardness of, for example
30°f (which is a common hardness) to 6°f, only 110 mg of sodium per liter of water is added. An adult’s normal diet contains 6,000 mg of salt per day (equivalent to +3,500 mg of sodium); a low-salt diet contains between 1,000 and 2,000 mg of salt. This example – and this also applies as a general rule – shows that about 98% of the sodium input comes from food versus 2% from water softening. By way of anecdote, we mention that water from Badoit contains 150 mg of sodium per liter and water from Vichy has a record value of 1,700 mg per liter, which, however, does not affect their drinkability at all.
In sodium chloride, used particularly in cooking (popularly called “table salt”), the salty taste comes from the compound of sodium with chlorides. In softened water, the sodium content increases, while the amount of chlorides remains unchanged. If the sodium taste is at all perceptible
would be, one could at most say that the water is “sodium-containing.”
Another commonly heard accusation against regeneration salt is that it is harmful to the environment.
Nothing could be less true. With hardness reduced from 30°f to 6°f, less than 40 grams of salt enter the sewer system per regeneration, for a consumption of 100 liters of water per day and per person, which is extremely little! In addition, the regeneration salts used in water softeners are very pure products, of nutritional quality (more than 99.5% sodium chloride) and are strictly controlled and certified by competent authorities.
On the other hand, remember that by softening it is possible to save significant amounts of soaps and detergents; these savings weigh more heavily on the environment than the possible “environmental impact” of the regeneration salt. This undoubtedly makes the water softener an environmentally conscious product!
Stagnant water promotes bacterial growth; that is simply a law of nature. When you leave a bottle of water open for a while, it quickly develops into a real breeding ground for bacteria. No one ever saw any bones in it, and rightly so! In a water softener, however, the water circulates daily, so downtime is very rare. However, when a water softener is not used for an extended period of time (for example, during a vacation period), it is advisable to flush the unit, along with the entire piping system, by letting the water flow for a few minutes at all drain points (after the water softener).
The human body fortunately houses millions of bacteria of the most diverse species. They ensure that we can live. There are very few harmful bacteria in drinking water, and our immune system is there to neutralize them. International experts therefore believe that bacterial growth in additional water treatment devices poses absolutely no danger to human health.
Moreover, water softening is a preventive treatment. By preventing scale build-up in water pipes and boilers, the growth of a number of dangerous bacteria, such as Legionella, is immediately inhibited; after all, scale build-up is an ideal breeding ground for these organisms.
Nothing prevents the user from softening cold water in a normal home. Water that is potable when it enters the water softener remains so when it leaves.
Although cold water causes less scale than hot water, it is better to soften cold water as well. First of all, because there are a HUGE number of household appliances in which water is heated; and in all these appliances, cold water is used as the base. This is nothing new for dishwasher manufacturers: they invariably build a water softener into their appliances. Even for cold water applications, it is advisable to use softened water. Just take a look at your dog’s or cat’s water bowl, whose water you change regularly; after a few months, limescale clearly appears here, too!
Naturally soft water, found in some granite regions, is rather aggressive and sometimes eats into it. However, one should not confuse soft water with softened water! Indeed, they differ substantially in their mineral composition.
Naturally soft water contains not only little lime, but also few dissolved minerals in general and consequently can affect water pipes. Softened water, on the other hand, is originally hard water, which is therefore rich in minerals. Softening lowers calcium and magnesium levels, thus combating limescale build-up
against, but does not change the amount of dissolved minerals. Thus, softened water cannot infiltrate. It offers the advantages of soft water, but not its possible disadvantages.
Although low residual hardness may seem good for pipes, it is a fable to think that the “lime layer” is guaranteed to protect against corrosion. First of all, because this lime layer does not build up uniformly in the pipe network; in some places it will not form, in others it will form excessively. Moreover, there are a lot of other forms of corrosion that are actually promoted by limescale; thus, the invreting may be going on for very different reasons under the limescale, even though one thinks there is no problem!
The current European Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC of 1998 on water for human consumption no longer contains any reference to hardness, calcium or magnesium content.
The content of sodium, which replaces the calcium and magnesium ions in the case of softening, is described only as an “indicator parameter” in this same European Drinking Water Directive. That is, this parameter does not determine the potability of the water. Waterworks supply water whose hardness depends greatly on its geographical and geological origin; some waters are very soft by origin, while others are very hard. Depending on their budget or expected comfort, consumers are free to soften the water supplied by the water utility.
In the national/regional implementation of this European directive, the 3 regional governments in Belgium (Flemish Region, Walloon Region, Brussels Capital Region) have followed the new European Drinking Water Directive on this point. They just make nor in a comment on an indicator parameter
mentioned minimum water hardness. However, it only applies to the water supplied to the end user by the water utilities, following their central water treatment process, through the public mains network and therefore does not apply to the end user himself
It has long been known among doctors, nutritionists and stay-at-home moms: adequate calcium is essential for health. And not just for breastfeeding women and growing children; throughout our lives we need calcium, especially to compensate for the decalcification that
is due to the aging process.
However, calcium salts dissolved in drinking water are absorbed by the human organsime only to a very limited extent. Even calcium-rich water provides only a small portion of the calcium requirement.
The calcium absorbed by the human body is found mainly in milk and its derivatives (butter, cheese, etc.) and numerous foods such as dried fruits and vegetables, chocolate, oily
fish species and seafood, organ meats and whole grain breads.
Water plays only a minor role when it comes to calcium input. Therefore, calcium deficiency due to drinking water is also not observed in regions with naturally soft water
Along with air, water is one of the most vital elements of life. Therefore, a water softener is not just an appliance that, once installed, can be forgotten. In practice, however, because of the automatic operation and location of the water softener installation, this does happen more often. However, regular “monitoring” of the water softener is indispensable.
Thus, it is necessary that you regularly replenish the supply of regeneration salt in the water softener. If this does not happen, the water softener will run out of salt after a certain amount of time, preventing it from efficiently regenerating and thus softening the water.
Failure to regularly maintain your water softener can also result in faulty operation
Aqua Belgica, the Belgian Federation for Water Treatment, calculated, based on figures from the NIS, that a Belgian family of 4 can save up to 650 euros on an annual basis by using a water softener.
A study conducted in America by the independent Battelle Memorial Institute, an independent testing and research center for applied scientific and technological development, substantiates Aqua Belgica’s findings. This study was conducted in 2009 under the direction of the Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF)