What is hard water?
As water moves through the ground, it dissolves materials it contacts. In many parts of the country, water dissolves rock containing hardness minerals. Why does hardness constitute a problem? Hardness scale can put water-using appliances out of service, clog pipes, and reduce the efficiency of hot water heaters. Hardness minerals also combine with soap, forming an insoluble product, "soap scum or soap curd". This product is what leaves rings in the bathtub, spots on glasses and dishes and leaves clothes grey or yellow.
What is soft water?
Soft water has the hardness minerals removed and replaced with sodium or potassium as the water passes through a water softener.
Do I have to worry about the iron in my water?
It's not unusual to find iron in water supplies since iron makes up about 5% of the earth's crust. As water moves to the water table, it dissolves some of whatever it comes in contact with. If that is iron, some will be present in a water supply. The US Environmental Protection Agency set a Secondary Drinking Water Standard for iron of 0.3 mg/L. Secondary Drinking Water Standards are set up for aesthetic concerns not health concerns. This means at concentrations above the standard it's not dangerous to human health but can cause staining and metallic taste.
Isn't softened water more corrosive than hard water?
No, unfortunately, the properties of naturally soft water are often confused with those of softened water. Naturally soft water is usually aggressive since it is low in all dissolved minerals not just the hardness minerals. A water softener merely exchanges the hardness minerals for sodium ions but doesn't change the characteristics of water associated with corrosion. From the EPA study evaluating the effects of household softening on home plumbing materials, "the ion exchange softened water did not show a pattern of higher metal leaching from plumbing materials. Furthermore, the water softener did not have a detrimental effect on the significant water quality parameters that influence metallic solubility and the rate of corrosion: pH, total inorganic carbon, dissolved oxygen, chlorine, temperature and ortho-phosphate".
Won't softener discharge hurt my septic system?
No, this concern was finally put to rest after evaluation by US Environmental Protection Agency. They concluded that water softener discharge caused no problems in the operation of biologic functions of home waste treatment. The additional water generated is added slowly to the wastewater stream and does not cause overload problems.
What is manganese and why should I want it out of my water?
Manganese is a metal often found dissolved in water supplies. The EPA set a Secondary Drinking Water Standard for manganese at 0.05 mg/L. This means for levels above 0.05 mg/L, aesthetic concerns such as a metallic taste or brown to black stains may be present. Secondary Drinking Water Standards are for NON-health related components of water. A water softener will reduce manganese or an Iron Curtain will reduce manganese effectively if the pH of the water is 8.5 or higher.
Should I worry about the level of nitrates in my water?
Nitrates are found in well water supplies due to contamination by fertilizers, barnyard runoff, septic tanks and decaying plant debris. The only way to find out if your water contains excessive nitrates is to have your water tested. The EPA set a Primary Drinking Water Standard for nitrate at 10.0 mg/L. Primary Drinking Water Standards protect human health by limiting the level of contaminants in public water supplies and are used as guidelines for private wells. Nitrate concentrations above 10.0 mg/L can be dangerous to infants 6 months and younger. Nitrates can reduce the blood's ability to carry oxygen and cause a condition called "blue baby syndrome". It is advised that pregnant or nursing women not consume water with nitrates above 10.0 mg/L. The Millennium Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System has been certified to reduce nitrates to a safe level.