What You Need to Know About Your Plumbing in San Diego, Part 5: Water Quality

plumber pointing to pipes under sink

What Is the Water Quality Like in America’s Finest City?

There are so many great aspects to living in San Diego. San Diego is known to be one of the best places to live in California. With a wide range of employment opportunities, beautiful beaches and nature, and an abundance of food and culture, it’s no wonder over 1.41 million choose to call “America’s Finest City” their home. One amazing quality that San Diego does not have, unfortunately, is good water quality.

Many members of the San Diego community have noticed the foul-tasting water, and wondered how it got there. Although San Diego’s drinking water quality meets the regulatory requirements put into place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is due to the high number of galvanized steel pipes in the area that are notorious for leaching toxins as water travels to the home. Plus, federal regulations actually allow for measurable levels of harmful contaminants in the drinking water. Even though these pollutants might be considered minor in legal terms, they can diminish your water quality and lead to a range of adverse effects.

Another unique part about San Diego that invites toxic water is the fact that the city brings in tap water from outside sources. The Colorado River Aqueduct is connected to the State Water Project. This water often travels thousands of miles and endures multiple filtration processes, which is supposed to remove particles. Even though this is supposed to benefit the water, it is common for cities to add minerals like fluoride, chlorine, salt, and chloramine. Other common contaminants that might be found in your tap water include trihalomethanes, PFOA/PFOS, and manganese.

Hard Water vs. Soft Water

What Is Hard Water and Why Is It a Problem?

When you hear about water quality, two of the terms you likely hear thrown around quite often are “hard water” and “soft water.” If you do not know what it means, it can be confusing to think of water being textured. The actual concept is not as far off as it might sound. Put simply, water hardness is the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. Although it is not a health risk, as some of the other forms of contamination are, it does tend to cause mineral buildup in water pipes and heating systems. Some of the problems that come with hard water include:

  • Hard water wastes soap and synthetic detergents.
  • Hard water leaves soap scums rings in the bathtub.
  • Hard water leaves spots and streaks on glassware and dishes.
  • Hard water makes bathing more difficult for skin and hair.
  • Hard water creates upscale deposits in all appliances that use water, which can clog hot water pipes.

In addition to those issues, hard water also causes the following problems:

  • Shortened hot water heater lifespan

Hot water heaters are designed to last eight to ten years, but hard water can shorten its life to be as low as four to six years, depending on the level of minerals present. Eventually, limescale will form on the heating element, which reduces its ability to heat the water. Minerals also settle at the bottom of the tank, which can decrease the amount of hot water available.

  • Mineral buildup around faucets and fixtures

When you see minerals building up on your faucet, it might not necessarily be harmful, but it sure is an eyesore. A temporary solution to this issue is to use a cleaner made for dissolving lime deposits. However, until the underlying issue of the hard water is addressed, you will see these deposits return time and time again.

  • Scummy residue on tubs and showers

The high level of calcium in hard water prevents soap from dissolving and rinsing away. The soap then forms an insoluble residue that sticks to the tile, bathtubs, and shower curtains. This can be quite difficult to clean away even with specialized products, so it is best to address the underlying cause at play.

  • Slow-flushing toilet

When any surfaces contacts hard water, mineral deposits will start to form, and your toilets are no exception. In fact, your toilets will likely be one of the first appliances to be visibly affected by hard water. This is because toilets tend to be the first to exhibit problems early on as impurities form inside the drainpipes. This narrows the pipes, reduces water flow, and causes clogs. It can also cause deposits to form inside the tank and cause internal components to corrode.

  • Spotty glasses and dishes

Just like your appliances, your glasses and dishes will end up with some unsightly cloudy spots if you have hard water. One helpful tip is to add white vinegar to the machine, which can help reduce the appearance of spotting. We also recommend hand washing your dishes and drying them by hand if you are running into this problem.

  • Dry, itchy skin

Your shower walls will retain soap scum after a steamy shower, as you would expect. If this problem is happening excessively, it might be more than just normal soap scum, and you could be dealing with a hard water issue. Not only does this scum build up over time to create an unattractive look, but it can irritate your skin, leaving it feeling dull, itchy, and dry. This is especially problematic if you have sensitive skin.

What Is Soft Water and What Are the Benefits of It?

Soft water, on the other hand, is free of these damaging chemicals. This makes it gentler on your body and your home. Soft water does not have the calcium and magnesium that hard water has. When your water is soft, it will also increase the effectiveness of your soap, unlike hard water, which can make it less effective. Plus, it is also more beneficial for your health because it can combat the dryness and stickiness caused by cold weather, low humidity, and hard water. Some of the other benefits you will experience when you take steps to soften your water include:

  • Providing overall protection for your home and plumbing

When you take steps to soften the water in your home, your plumbing system will certainly thank you. Soft water is much gentler for your system, which means there will be far less strain. This will give your appliances the freedom to function properly, which will likely increase its lifespan. It will also mean that you have less maintenance needs in the future. For this reason, investing in softer water can reduce your overall plumbing costs down the line.

  • Enhancing cleaning efficiency

No matter what you might be cleaning at a given time, your cleaning products are deemed useless without water. If your water is hard, it can actually contribute to the scum rather than clean it. It is easy to see how this could make your cleaning process less effective as a whole. Not only will your surfaces appear dirty after cleaning, but it will likely cause you to spend even more on cleaning supplies as you work tirelessly to get to the bottom of the issue. Most likely, you would be better off being proactive and keeping your water as soft as possible.

  • Softening skin and hair

Just as hard water can irritate your skin, if your water is softer, you should start to notice that your skin and hair are softer too. You might not notice the difference after just one shower or bath, but over time, soft water will make a positive impact just a hard water will make a negative impact.

  • Helping protect the environment

When you think about protecting the environment, you might not think about the minerals in your home’s water, but they can actually make a big difference. When you install a water softener in your home, you will decrease the levels of greenhouse gases your home emits. This is due to the fact that soft water heats more efficiently than hard water, which means it uses less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases. This will also decrease your energy bills, so it’s a win-win situation.

  • Saving money

Speaking of decreasing your energy bills, there is a variety of ways that softer water can save you money. For one, as previously mentioned, you will likely spend less on cleaning products because your soft water will be a more powerful cleaning agent than hard water.

How Do You Filter Hard Water in Your House?

Now that you are familiar with the status of the water quality in San Diego as well as the benefits of soft water, you might be wondering how you can facilitate water softness in your own home. The best solution is a water filtration system, and there are a few ways you can go about installing one that fits your home’s needs. The team at John Padilla Plumbing, Inc. commends you for being proactive about the quality of the water in your home, and we would love to help you achieve the quality of water your family deserves through a water filtration system.

The goal of a water filtration system is to remove elements that make your water hard and cause it to have an unpleasant taste and smell. When you have a home water filtration system, you will find that the overall purity, taste, and smell of your water improves. See below the most common types of water filtration systems:

  • Activated carbon

Activated carbon is a popular treatment used in many different types of units. Activated carbon filters are effective at removing large particles, such as sediments, rust, and organic compounds from the water supply. Essentially, these filers are blocks of compressed carbon. The large surface area of the tiny particles that make up the pressed block is full of small pores, which traps particles within the water as they pass through. This allows water to run through the filter without bringing the contaminants with it.

  • Reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis water filters are widely known to be one of the most effective filtering solutions. This is because of the high volume of contaminants that reverse osmosis is able to remove from the water. Amazingly, it can remove up to 99.99% of total dissolved solids. With the reverse osmosis process, the water is pressurized through a semi-permeable membrane that lets the water molecules pass through without the contaminants. The result is fresh water on one side of the membrane and concentrated wastewater on the other. Reverse osmosis units can easily be installed beneath a kitchen sink. They require minimal maintenance and are often paired with UV filtration units that eliminate bacteria and contaminants from the water supply.

  • Alkaline and water ionizers

Alkaline and water ionizers use electrolysis to separate the water into two streams according to the molecular charge of the particles. When the water passes across electrically charged plates, molecules with a negative charge are drawn to the anode and positively charged molecules are drawn to the cathode. The charges determine whether the molecule is more acidic or alkaline, and it is widely believed that alkaline water has more health benefits. Alkaline water is also known to be softer than acidic water, so water ionizers can be used in hard water areas to help with the effects of scale in plumbing systems.

  • UV filters

Ultraviolet is one of the newer methods of water filtration. It is extremely effective at destroying bacteria and parasites within the water. With UV filters, water is irradiated with UV light through a glass component, which kills living organisms within the supply. Those who have these types of filters are fond of them because they require no chemicals and minimal maintenance.

  • Infrared filters

Far infrared (FIR) water filters affect the molecular charge of the water passing through, similar to water ionizers. This results in softer, more alkaline water.

  • Activated alumina

Activated alumnia filters are made up of aluminum oxide. During this type of filtration, small pores within the molecular construction of the stone trap impurities suspended within the water and prevent them from passing through the filter. This means that the water coming through your faucet is cleaner and fresher.

  • Ceramic filters

These filters are made of ceramic and are full of tiny pores. Water can run through the filter, but contaminant particles are trapped within the tiny pores and removed from the filtered water. Ceramic filters are often treated with antimicrobial agents, which plays an additional role in removing bacteria from the water. One of the best parts about ceramic filters is that they are one of the longest-lasting water filter cartridge types, and they can be removed and washed before being reused.

  • Water distillation

This is most likely what comes to mind when you think about a water filtration system. Water distillation is the oldest known type of water purification, but it is still widely used to improve the quality of drinking water supplies and remove impurities. This type of system can also be used to desalinate sweater and make it drinkable. Water distillation involves the supply-water being boiled. The steam that is produced is then trapped and condensed into liquid form, which creates a purer product. The water is the only component that evaporates to become steam during the process, which means that you can say goodbye to those contaminants. The water must be heated to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit to evaporate, so almost all bacteria and parasites are killed during this process. In homes, distillation is typically used to purify water for drinking.

To learn more about water quality in San Diego and what we can do to soften the water in your home, call John Padilla Plumbing, Inc. at (858) 375-5633 or contact us online.

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