As an environmentally-conscious homeowner, you undoubtedly have concerns about the quality of your water you use for drinking and bathing as well as avoiding waste or additional environmental impact. Water quality problems can be potentially harmful to your health as well as causing additional use of water and energy – and water filtration itself can be a potential source of byproducts that can further degrade the quality of water discharged into the sewer system or water table.
Fortunately, it’s possible to both keep your water safe, reduce waste and avoid further contamination of precious water supplies with some smart choices when it comes to water filtration – whether you have hard water or another problem with your water such as odors or heavy metal contamination.
Water Softening versus Water Conditioning
Water softening can be an effective way to deal with hard water problems – it reduces the need for you to utilize harsh chemicals to remove lime scale deposits on fixtures, appliances and pipes which could then make their way into the water supply. You will also be able to utilize less detergent and energy on washing clothes or dishes in order to counteract the effects of hard water that interferes with soap’s lathering abilities. However, traditional water softening methods utilize salt which can be an undesirable influx of additional salt into the water supply, raising salinity in your water supply and causing other problems, making it a less desirable option from an environmental standpoint.
Water conditioning is an alternative to water softening that does not utilize salt, requires much less maintenance and does not require electricity to operate, making it more environmentally-friendly while still offering some of the same benefits as water softening. It is not quite as effective as water softening in terms of removing calcium and magnesium ions that contribute to hard water, but it makes lime scale deposits easier to remove while avoiding adding salt to the water.
Bottled Water versus Reverse Osmosis
While bottled water is a common solution to drinking water quality problems, it can be wasteful from an environmental standpoint since you’re generating a constant stream of plastic bottles that need to be recycled as well as the energy needed to produce bottled water.
Reverse osmosis has become a popular alternative to bottled water as it can effectively remove a broad spectrum of contaminants including microorganisms, heavy metals and radioactive particles. It also has the advantage of being very cost-effective and produces much less waste compared to bottled water – a top-performing system can be purchased for under $200 and only require a filter change every 6-12 months depending on use in an average home.
However, bear in mind that the quality of your water is ultimately what should decide your choice of water filtration – you may not necessarily need a full-scale solution when a filter pitcher may do the job. Balance your needs against the most viable solution in terms of financial and environmental impact.
Photo via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources