Published: May 17, 2012

    Salt Water Softener Ban

    California Bans Salt Water Softeners

    Long counted on to combat the destructive effects of hard water, salt water softeners are quickly emerging as public water enemy number one. Criticized for introducing salt into residential systems, their conventional designs also require large amounts of water for backwashing. While salt free water softeners don’t pose this destructive issue, this salt water softener ban targets water softeners that make use of rock salt chips whose backwash sends that salt straight into local systems.

    Salt Water Softener Ban in California

    Back in 2008, the residents of Santa Clarita Valley were subject to serious legislation governing the use of these water softeners. With the Santa Clara River one of only two remaining natural river systems in Southern California, local officials attempted to decrease their liability as well as the associated costs of introducing more than the accepted salt levels set by the state.

    Thousands and thousands of residents have since complied with the removal of these water softeners. Residents who did not respond to the notification and the subsequent removal were warned of a consequent home inspection and a possible $1000 fine for violations.

    The City of Santa Clarita’s Mayor, Marsha McLean stated, “This Enforcement Program will help remove the remaining automatic water softeners in the community. It will further lower the salt concentration in the water going to the river and ultimately save Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses a substantial sum of money.”
    The domino effect has been felt throughout the region as other California cities imposed similar bans. California cities with a salt water softener ban include: Fillmore, Chino, Chino Hills, Fontana, Montclair, Ontario, Upland, the Cucamonga Valley and Monte Vista Water Districts.

    Salt Free Water Softeners

    Saltless softeners do not subject fresh water supplies to the discharge. The salt pellets used in the banned softeners however, introduce sodium into the public water supply and lead to excessive chloride levels in soil. The backlash caused by salty wastewater caused problems in the city of Dixon, California.

    The runoff from these salt water softeners that impact both the drinking water and the water used for agricultural purposes cannot be eradicated by the majority of wastewater treatment plants; they ar

    e just not adequately outfitted for sufficient removal. In Dixon, their choice was to succumb to a $60 million price tag to erect a new wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) that would operate on a reverse osmosis technology, or they could pass a mandate to steer the residents away from salt water softeners. This solution would only carry a bottom line of several thousands of dollars as opposed to a new WWTP.

    In an attempt to confirm the origin of the salty wastewater, the city commissioned a study to ascertain the culprits of the contamination and found that almost half of the contribution was made by salt water softeners. According to Dixon’s Director of Utilities, Royce Cunningham, “About 45 percent of that salt load was coming from water softeners, and the majority of them were residential.”

    Salt Water Softener Ban

    Whether mandating removal or restricting use, more and more states are jumping on the “ban wagon”.

    There are now: water softener regulations in Massachusetts, and in Michigan, water softener regulations are prohibiting the use of salt water softeners in Hamburg Township. The public health code is dictating Connecticut’s water softener regulations to protect groundwater and prevent damage to septic systems. In Texas, water softener regulations are imposing standards of the type of water softener and how it conducts the backwash cycle.

    The response on a state to state basis fluctuates, but they are all sending the same message. Saltless water softeners make the most sense from a conservation, environmental, and contamination-responsible position. The Salt Water Softener Ban seems to be just getting started.