Risks Associated with Hard Water Fueling Discussions About Innovative Technologies
884 million people around the world lack access to safe water, and among those millions of people, many are consuming hard water. While hard water has previously been thought to possess benefits due to the minerals it contains, research has shown that it might be one of the causes for many diseases such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, reproductive failure, neural diseases and more. The biggest obstacle in providing safe drinking water is understanding how to ensure it is accessible by countries who could benefit from the environmental benefits it holds while also investing in innovative water softening technologies that can make the process accessible to all.
Hard and Soft Water Explained
As water naturally moves through rivers and other sources it accumulates dissolved solids from the rocks and sediments that it touches. Water is considered to be “hard” if it is found to have higher than normal amounts of dissolved minerals such as magnesium and calcium. While there are scientific norms to classify just how “hard” water is, it is usually evident by the effects it has on the plumbing and appliances in a home. The main difference lies in the fact that hard water contains dissolved minerals that can cause problems for consumers as well as the environment. While exploring the many benefits of soft water, however, it is especially important to address emerging water softening technologies that not only facilitate in-home chores but can reduce a household’s environmental impact in a low-cost way.
Innovations in Water Softening Technology
Current water softener technologies rely on a method that is referred to as demand-initiation regeneration. This process uses salt-coasted resin beads to ensure that sodium and potassium ions are released into the water and exchanged for the calcium and magnesium ions, resulting in a neutralized effect. Whereas this process has previously been time and resource-consuming, developers are investing in smart water softening sensors that collect data based on usage and regenerate when they know water will be consumed. Major appliance companies are beginning to develop smart water softeners that can connect to a home’s WiFi system in order to send alerts about water quality in a way that facilitates a more closely-monitored water usage plan in general.
Environmental Impacts of Water Softening
Studies do show that the use of ion exchange water softening systems does have an environmental impact, but also that this impact is far outweighed by the energy-saving benefits and reduced consumption of other harmful chemicals that it provides. According to these studies, it was found that, in France, "a 1mm increase in scale thickness caused by hard water can reduce heating efficiency by an average of 6%, with the first 0.4mm showing a rate as high as 10%." In the United States, it was found that over 29% more energy was used by gas heaters that run on hard water. So, while the harmful effects of hard water on health are being reviewed, it is becoming clearer that the benefits of water softening and the technologies that permit it can reduce the impact communities have on the environment.
Investing in the Expansion of Water Softening Industries
When aiming to reduce the environmental impacts of any daily process, it is important to weigh the pros and cons. As more studies continue to reveal the negative impacts that hard water can have on health, it becomes increasingly more clear that an investment in smart water softening technologies is beneficial in more ways than one. As governments and companies invest in these technologies they will continue to be able to both lower the costs of production and retail price, making them more accessible to all, while also decreasing the impact that production can have on the environment. As they become more environmentally-friendly, these processes will become more widely adopted and accepted.