Help the environment go on a salt diet
State water officials are embarking on what could be a decades-long mission to lower the Delta's salt content and help farmers whose crops suffer, as well as Californians who rely on drinking water pumped from the region.
To meet those goals, the state has been tightening regulations on agencies like Ironhouse Sanitary District, requiring them to lower the amount of salt that runs though their systems and that is ultimately released into the ground and waterways.
One of the causes of increased salts in the San Joaquin River is residential automatic water softeners, which generate wastewater that is high in chloride.
Not including the chloride that exists naturally in drinking water, residential automatic water softeners can account for approximately 40 percent of the chloride that enters wastewater treatment plants. ISD is required to implement a plan to reduce the amount of chloride it discharges.
Presently, the district's wastewater is sent to ISD's Water Recycling Facility before being piped to district-owned property on Jersey Island where it is released onto fields owned by ISD. Some of the water is discharged by permit into the San Joaquin River.
The district's new plant became operational at the end of 2011. In the future, the highly treated water it produces may be recycled for use by industry, agriculture and landscape irrigation. While the water reclamation process provides a high level of treatment, it cannot remove chloride. If chloride levels get too high, they can harm wildlife and negatively impact crops, vegetation and industrial processes that rely on recycled water.
Also, at times when chloride content becomes too high, ISD may be unable to utilize its river discharge option, which in turn could negatively impact rate payers through higher fees. While ISD does not currently regulate the use of automatic water softeners, we ask that when purchasing a new softener residents choose with care. Those who have automatic softeners should find out what style they have and consider replacing units that use salt and potassium chloride with models that are environmentally friendly.
As part of its public education campaign, the district is encouraging residents to voluntarily discontinue using water softeners that discharge into the sewer system or replace them with those that do not. Local companies EcoWater Systems or Culligan in Brentwood offer portable cylinder discharge, exchange and cleaning services that eliminate the need to discharge by converting cylinder contents to energy matter.
Remember, ISD now releases its reclaimed water into the San Joaquin River and everyone must play a role in keeping the water free of unnecessary chlorides. Spread this message to your neighbors today.
Ordinance 57—Water Softeners
In 2015 the Ironhouse Sanitary District Board of Directors voted in Ordinance 57, which banned the any installation of "salt-based" water softeners.
The Ordinance reads that installation of a residential or nonresidential self-regenerating water softening appliance that discharges into the District sewer system owned and operated by the District or that discharges into the District sewer system that is tributary to the sewer system owned and operated by the District. New water softening devices installed for all users or structures shall be of a type and style as selected by the user at their expense, provided however that any such appliances or devices must comply with the terms and conditions of this Ordinance. Use of non-brine discharging water softening devices such as membrane or carbon systems are not prohibited by the District.
Hard facts about soft water
• How do I know if I have an automatic water softener? If you add salt or potassium chloride to your water softener or have a water conditioning service do so, then you have an automatic water softener. If you have a water conditioning service regularly change out the tank on your water softener, then you have a portable exchange tank system.
• What is chloride? Chloride is one of the two components of sodium chloride, also known as table salt or rock salt. It is also one of the two components of potassium chloride, also known as potassium tablets or potassium crystals.
• How can I help reduce the amount of chloride going to the Delta? If you have an automatic water softener, remove it today and explore an environmentally friendly model. Use non-chlorine instead of chlorine bleach, and dryer sheets instead of liquid softener when you do laundry.
Choosing the right water softener helps meet regulations, saves you money
The type of water softener you choose for your home or business can impact the environment as much as the quality of the water that comes from the tap.
State water officials are asking sanitary districts throughout the state to reduce the amount of salt they release back into the waterways and ground through their wastewater systems. In turn, ISD customers must do their part by reducing the amount of salt that leaves their individual residences.
Simply changing the type of water softener you use not only can help the Delta, farmers and sanitary districts, including ISD, but also can help you save money in more ways than one.
All softeners remove the undesirable minerals associated with "hard water." However, some recharge their filters by simply flushing their contents, and the salt that is used to free the contents, into the sewer. The result is that the extra salt and potassium chloride these systems generate is returned to the environment. Others, such as EcoWater Systems' Series 3500 HydroLink Remote, offer a portable cylinder discharge, exchange and cleaning service.
"We have some of the most environmentally friendly units on the market," said Brentwood EcoWater's Rob Kinslow. "These systems save money, energy and water."
The HydroLink Remote features a portable cylinder discharge system. The brine the cylinder collects is used by the East Bay Municipal Utility District to recycle into energy.
"Using these types of water softeners can save money in the reduction of chemical products that are used," Kinslow said. "Soft water requires less shampoo and soap. Which means the consumer saves money."
Kinslow said these systems reduce scale buildup in pipes, allowing appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines to run more efficiently and to last longer.
Likewise, you'll save money by not having to buy bags of salt, and when fewer salts are discharged into the sewer system, it helps ISD comply with its river discharge requirements.