If you live in an area or region affected by softener regulations you are keenly aware of the situation. In short yes, there are areas of the country, even whole states, where salt based softeners are banned or restricted. If you live in one of these areas where salt softeners are banned then you already know the ban is very real.
Salt based softeners use an ion exchange process where salt is exchanged for hardness. When the salty waste is drained into a municipal sewer system the waste is treated by a process that does not remove the salt. The salt is then passed into the environment, usually a river. This raises the amount of salt in the river and eventually groundwater that is recharged by the water from the river.
Rising levels of salt in our water supply is problematic, especially for farmers who rely upon this water to raise and produce crops. Simply put, high salt levels in the water used by farmers damages and even kills their crops. If rising levels of salt were ignored and allowed to continue we could see a time where farmers are not able to produce crops to feed our nation. To top it off, if salinity levels are allowed to rise to the point where farmers cannot raise crops there is no practical way to reduce that salinity via man made solution. Perhaps time would eventually dilute the concentration or flush the salt to the ocean but this is not known.
Salt Softener Bans:
Because rising levels of salt in our water supply is such a serious problem there are several areas around the county, most located in California, where there is an outright ban on salt based softeners. Some might suggest switching from typical softener salt (sodium chloride) to an alternate salt (potassium chloride) but, in this context, it doesn’t make a difference. Both sodium and potassium chloride softeners produce waste that can’t be treated via typical municipal sewer treatment systems and both are banned. Because the ion exchange process cannot work without these salts alternatives must be considered. Check out what the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County have to say here.
Salt Softener Restrictions:
There are softener restrictions in many areas around the country which dictate where the waste from a salt softener can be disposed of. There are many states that have regulations preventing disposal of salty softener waste into on-site septic systems. This in effect eliminates salt softeners as a treatment for hard water where there is no municipal sewer treatment option available.
What options do you have?
There are several technologies or processes that address hard water problems without the use of salt. For whatever reason you may be looking to address hard water without using salt you may end up finding a treatment system you absolutely love even more than a salt based softener. One of the oldest is polyphosphate which is used by many municipalities across the nation to control mineral scale buildup and some polyphosphates such as our own PolyHalt® have even more capabilities than a salt softener. In addition to treating hardness a single PolyHalt® treatment unit will address iron, manganese, low pH and even silica problems for the whole home or business all in a small sized saltless cartridge based system without producing waste water or requiring power.
Softener bans and restrictions are not new and they have not been reversed since adopted. Texas, Kentucky and Montana all rewrote state septic tank regulations well over a decade ago. From <http://www.wqpmag.com/fighting-water-softener-bans>