We hear this day after day, and while cities do pretreat your water before you see it in your home, most of the time, they are only removing the harmful contaminants like any parasites, bacteria, or viruses that may be present. They do not treat the water for hardness. The average city water hardness in the US is between 15 and 20 grains per gallon of hardness. This means that even on city water you will experience the same negative effects of hard water as somebody on well water would experience plus more from the added chlorine.
As you may know, hard water is not harmful to those that drink and bathe in it, but it can be harmful to appliances, plumbing, and clothing. Hardness minerals, like calcium and magnesium, are naturally occurring minerals found in water. Over time, hard water leads to a buildup of these minerals, called limescale buildup. This buildup can cause water pressure and flow issues in pipes; efficiency issues with appliances like water heaters, refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines; and unsightly, hard to clean buildup in showers and tubs. Beyond the effects on appliances and plumbing, there are also effects to your skin and hair. The hardness minerals work directly against the natural oils your skin produces. This causes issues like dry skin and hair, flaky scalp, brittle nails, and more.
Chlorine is a whole other beast when it comes to water treatment. Chlorine damages skin and hair in similar ways to hardness. This means if you are on city water, your skin and hair could be dealing with twice the amount of damage as somebody with soft, chlorine free water! Chlorine is also an enemy to water softener resin. Two parts per million (2 ppm) of chlorine in the water is enough to cut the resin’s lifespan in half. City water ranges anywhere from 1 ppm to 4 ppm. That is why it is incredibly important to test your water before purchasing any water treatment equipment. With four parts of chlorine in the water, your resin is going to be breaking down incredibly fast. To combat chlorine issues, you can install a carbon filter. If you are on the higher end of that spectrum, it would be most beneficial to use a whole-house backwashing carbon filter. The carbon removes the chlorine from the water, meaning your skin and hair reap the benefits along with your water softener lasting much longer!
So next time you hear someone say they don’t need a softener because they have city water, tell them what you’ve learned. If your water is hard, you need a water softener! Remember that it is always best to test the water before purchasing any equipment.