Green Water Softeners
Commercial and Industrial Waters Softeners for the Environment
“Hard” water is any water that contains high levels of unwanted minerals, most commonly lime (dissolved limestone) and dissolved metals such as iron. Left untreated, these minerals can create mineral deposits in plumbing pipes, in appliances, and on dishes, and can make showering less than pleasant as soap and shampoo often doesn’t lather well in hard water. Lime causes the soft, white spots or film you may have seen on drinking glasses; iron leads to the orangey stains you may have seen in porcelain sinks or toilets.
This hard water can lead to a negative environmental impact. Dishes that aren’t “clean” are often rewashed to remove minerals, and showers often tend to take longer, both of which waste water. Removing mineral deposits from pipes and appliances is often achieved through the use of harsh or hazardous chemicals, which ultimately end up in the water and must be removed in water treatment plans. In some extreme cases, the problem of severe mineral build up in plumbing can only be solved by replacing the pipes, sending old “unusable” plumbing to landfills.
An effective solution to hard water problems is the installation of water softeners. Many homes already have water softeners installed. However, many other locations, such as commercial and industrial buildings, as well as many older buildings of all types, do not have water softeners.
All water softeners will filter out the unwanted minerals in water. Many modern commercial and industrial water softeners utilize a process called “ion exchange.” In ion exchange, special beads of resin with sodium or potassium ions attached capture the particles of lime or iron (or whatever other contaminants there may be in the water) and release, or “exchange,” their sodium or potassium ions. The ion exchange process is a renewable one, as the resin beads can be rinsed, restored, and reused after they’ve been saturated with minerals.
More advanced (and, of course, more expensive) water softener models are available that can also filter out chemicals, such as soaps and cleaning solvents. Robert B. Hill has tons of information on these types of water softeners. This prevents these chemicals from reaching city water supplies, thereby reducing the load on water treatment equipment. This advanced technology is usually reserved for industrial water softeners, those used in hotels, office buildings, restaurants, and other locations where large volumes of water—and assorted chemicals that go into the water—are used on a daily basis.
The use of water softeners in private, commercial, and industrial water systems is an effective, but often overlooked, method of improving the “green” impact of every day water use.