Does drinking hard water result in an unhealthy buildup of minerals in the body over time? Should I use a water softener?
—Sunny Mullis, Sturgis, SD
The presence of calcium and magnesium in your water will make it “hard.” These minerals are dissolved in rainwater as it moves through soil and rock. According to a 1980 study done by the National Academy of Sciences on the mineral nutrition of drinking water, a high-calcium diet can help prevent osteoporosis, or bone degeneration, and magnesium can help prevent depression, vertigo and muscle weakness. The study shows that magnesium deficiencies can slow growth, affect the kidneys, and result in hair loss. There were no negative side effects reported from ingesting large quantities of calcium or magnesium.
Hard water can, however, damage hot water heater efficiency and block plumbing by forming calcium deposits in pipes. It can also reduce water pressure, leave soap film and scum lines on tile, and cause poor sudsing of soap and shampoo, dry, itchy skin and brittle hair.
Hard water can be an inconvenience, but traditional treatment for softening your water may be bad for your health. To remove the minerals, many companies use an ion exchange process, replacing the calcium and magnesium with sodium (salt). The problem is that twice the amount of sodium is needed to replace the other ions, and treated water offers a heavy dose of this health buster. You may want to try an alternative softener, such as the Scaleban, an electronic limestone (the source of calcium deposits) neutralizer made by EcoSoft Systems. It softens water electronically without using salt. Water softeners made by War-A-Lon use a no-salt catalytic/magnetic process.