Landscape Irrigation: Hard Water vs. Soft Water – Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Santa Barbara Landscaping
Is soft water better than hard water? Is one better for drinking? Is one better for irrigating? Let’s start off with a basic, scientific, explanation of the difference between hard and soft water. In nature, softer water comes from rainfall. Once rainfall has come in contact with the earth, it becomes “hard” by picking up and holding in minerals like chalk, lime, calcium, and magnesium. When hard water evaporates, it leaves behind the minerals that it collected. This process leaves a residue behind on smooth or shiny surfaces commonly refereed to as “water spots”, “calcium spots”, or “lime build-up”.
So what kind of water do we receive at our home from the water company or onsite well? We receive hard water. This water has been in contact with the earth and has taken in minerals. Is this bad? Actually, no! It’s recommended that we drink hard water not only because of the balance of minerals it contains that our body benefits from consuming, but it also has a better taste. With the exception of soft rainwater, hard water is the ONLY water recommended for irrigating as well. We’ll explain this in more detail in the next paragraph. There are a few downsides to using hard water around the rest of the house. It is difficult to keep things clean that come into contact with it. It leaves “water spots” on anything it comes into contact with, most noticeably on things such as cars sprayed by sprinklers, shower doors from regular use, as well as household appliances. It also tends to leave hair looking duller, appliances working less efficiently, laundry less soft, and cleaning more of a hassle. So do you turn to soft water for all your household uses? No, not necessarily.
Soft water COULD be used for all household uses EXCEPT irrigation, and here’s why. A water softener is used to soften hard water by using salt to eliminate the minerals in the water. At the end of the process, the only ion left in the water is sodium. This can be bad for drinking because the water can have a salty taste. Drinking soft water is not recommended for people with heart, circulatory problems, or people on a low sodium diet. It does save money and time by allowing appliances to run more efficiently and keeping things, such as showers, cleaner. Landscapes DO NOT take well to salts and sodium. Plants do not react well to sodium, and many times they die because they cannot tolerate the exposure. The salts in soft water also confuse the plants into thinking they need more water, and it makes it more difficult for them to accept water because the high salt levels compete with the water itself. Over time, the plants will consume less and less water because they think they’re being drenched in salt and don’t believe it’s really water. This will cause salt buildup on the surface of the soil from all the excess water that can’t infiltrate into the soil anymore and eventually evaporates, leaving behind a white crust that may appear on the soil in planter beds, the surface of the lawn, and even in the lower layers of the soil. This will all cause permanent damage and make it near impossible to have healthy plants. It is a dire mistake to use soft water for irrigating your landscape. In the end, you’ll have to waste more water to water your plants to keep them alive with little visual satisfaction as they will appear unhealthy and yellow. The soil will become permanently damaged and the soil will have to be treated and maintained to keep salt levels down.
Most hard drinking water in Southern California can be used for irrigation without a problem, but we can have your water sampled and tested for salt levels. We can also provide solutions for salt, and other soil and irrigation issues!