Most wastewater treatment plants are not able to remove salt from wastewater, so every bag of salt that goes into your water softener passes through the treatment plant and into a local lake or stream. If you are on a private septic system, softener salt is infiltrating into groundwater. Increasing your softener’s efficiency protects our freshwater resources.
Take this Water Softener Self-Diagnostic to see if your softener is Salt Wise.
Blending valves allow homeowners to protect appliances without softening water down to ZERO grains per gallon. Compare it to setting your AC at 65F instead of 62F. By letting some "hardness" (magnesium and calcium) pass through the water softener, you reduce the amount of salt used in each regeneration cycle. Check out this blog post for more information.
Water Softener Optimization
Optimizing softeners for household water use and local water hardness can reduce salt use by 25% to 50%. If your household softener uses 1 bag of salt per month or more, have a professional tune it up or replace it with a high-efficiency model.
If you live in Dane County, visit Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District's website to find a service provider who has completed training on salt reduction and softener efficiency.
Why get a salt-efficient softener when you can go saltless? Saltless softeners are actually water conditioners because they prevent hard water scale without adding sodium, aka "softening" water. For those who are accustomed to soft water, it will likely be an adjustment. Is the tradeoff of film on dishes, etc., for a reduced environmental footprint worth it for you and your household? To learn more, check out the results of a one-year market research study in Waterloo, Ontario.
Not a Hard Topic: Water Softeners
Check out the City of Madison's Everyday Engineering Podcast episode in which Water Resources Engineer Phil Gaebler and Allison Madison, WI Salt Wise, discuss water softeners and the impacts they have on our fresh water. (Total length = 21 minutes.)