Relieving the pressure on water authorities to deliver the quality and quantity of water needed for California city-dwellers, winter snows and the state of California's snowpack has allowed the CA Department of Water Resources to increase the 2010 allocation of State Water Project deliveries to 30%.
As recently as February 26, the allocation was a puny 5% reflecting a three-year drought. April snows in the Sierras are responsible for total winter snowfall far above normal. This year, the state received 132% of its normal snowfall; last year, it was only 80% of normal. As late as early April, the allocation had been set at 20%. The state reservoir system had been dangerously low, as this graphic shows (click for a larger version ). Even with the heavy snow, Lake Oroville, the key reservoir, remains at 55% of capacity.
A final snow survey will be done this week and final allocations made.
This won't lead to any short-term changes in the politics of California's water and the struggles of citizens with hard water threats to their home plumbing and appliances, but it's welcome news nonetheless.
Water softeners virtually eliminate energy-wasting, service life-shortening scale accumulation on gas and electric water heaters, according to a new study by Battelle Memorial Institute on "Benefits of removal of water hardness (calcium and magnesium ions) from a water supply." Testing electric water heaters over an equivalent 15 months of service found 64 times more scaling on unsoftened water than softened water (14 grams/year softened versus 907 g/yr for unsoftened). For gas water heaters, the scale reduction was even more dramatic. Over more than two years' equivalent service, heaters fed with unsoftened water accumulated 74 time the amount of scaling as those fed softened water (7 g/yr for softened versus 528 for unsoftened). Instantaneous gas heaters fed unsoftened water declined in thermal efficiency from 80 to 72 and, even when delimed, only recovered 62% of the lost efficiency. The thermal efficiency of all water heaters using softened water was unimpaired.
For gas storage and instantaneous water heaters, the use of a water softener to eliminate or minimize the scale forming compounds in water will result in the efficiency of the water heater remaining constant over the life of the unit. In contrast, gas storage and instantaneous water heaters using unsoftened water had a noticeable decrease in efficiency over the testing period resulting in higher natural gas use.
The increase in total energy consumption (as a result of a reduction in heat transfer efficiency) is related to hardness: higher water hardness will lead to greater energy consumption without the use of water softener, and consequently greater energy costs."
The report calculates the percentage of lifecycle energy cost savings using softeners ranging from 3.1% for "moderately hard" water with 5 grains hardness per gallon to 6.6% for "hard" water with 10 grains hardness, 14.5% for "very hard" water with 20 grains hardness and 24.2% for water with 30 grains hardness.
Rep. Earl Blumenaur
(D-OR) didn't get his party's "no middle class tax" memo. His new water infrastructure bill would meet the new spending demands with taxes on bottled beverages -- water and soft drinks (alcohol exempted; he likely has wine-grower constituents), soaps and detergents, toilet paper and water softeners. Sounds like a middle class tax to us. See sections 4171 and 4172 of his bill HR 3202
which has been referred to four House committees, including the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee. Let's hope it's just another PR ploy.
The first results of a major study on the effects of water softeners reveal that untreated hard water can rapidly lead to clogged showerheads — in some cases, after as soon as a year and a half of regular use. The Water Quality Association (WQA) announced June 4 in a press conference that just after one week of accelerated testing with hard water, more than three-fourths of showerhead nozzles became heavily clogged. On the other hand, showerheads using softened water performed nearly as well as on the day they were originally installed.
The results reported on are part of a larger research project being conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute, an independent nonprofit science and technology research organization in Columbus, OH. The WQA, together with key stakeholders, including the Salt Institute, oversees the Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF), which is funding the study.
In addition to the showerhead tests, analysts are examining the longevity of clothes washers, water heaters and dishwashers using hard water versus softened water. Battelle also is conducting tests to determine how much energy savings softeners can provide homeowners. The final research report is scheduled for September 2009.
California State Senator George Runner (R-Antelope Valley) is mad. Persuaded by the Los Angeles County Sanitation District that his constituents could avoid paying nearly $400 in higher sewer rates if they voted to remove water softeners from their homes, he authored and secured passage of SB 475 in the Legislature which led to Measure S being placed on ballot in Santa Clarita last November. It was approved overwhelmingly.
Runner was just informed that the sewer assessment would be raised from $14.92 to $47 a month -- $385 a year, "more than triple the current rate!" he explained in an angry letter to the Santa Clarita Signal . He pronounced the Sanitation District "guilty," stating:
We’ve all been victims of a bait and switch: A sales tactic in which an item is used to attract customers who, once lured, find themselves receiving something different. It’s never a pleasant experience, but there is something particularly offensive when public officials engage in these dishonest tactics because they are supposed to be working for us.
One wonders if voters would have voted down Measure S had they been told the truth. If voters knew that rates would be increased whether the measure was approved or not, they may have chosen to keep their water softeners.
In fact, a Sanitation District press release stated emphatically, “if all automatic water softeners aren’t removed now, sewer bills may be higher forever.” Does that mean the rate increases of the same proposed levels are somehow going to be temporary now? I don’t think so, and voters got duped.
Payback time may be coming for Sen. Runner. The Assembly is poised to approve an anti-softener bill, AB1366, which should reach the Senate later this month. Fool me once, shame on you, food me twice....
It would be easy to dismiss the premise of a talk delivered yesterday at the 2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, in Houston. But the audience seems serious enough.
Entitled "Taking the salt out of sea water" sound shopworn, but there's no doubting the need for additional supplies of fresh water in many areas. The UN estimates that, globally, 1.1 billion people lack access to sustainable, clean drinking water and that 1.6 million children die each year because of that lack of access. University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) geoscientist David Kreamer, noting that 37% of the world's population lives within 100 km of a coastline, proposes that mothballed naval ships, such as the decommissioned US aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, be retrofitted to become mobile desalination plants. He terms it "practical." Sounds like it's anything but that, but at least the idea is being vetted by relevant scientists.
Medical News Today has the October 1 story.
Months of hard work were repaid today as CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2270 , a bill to remove procedural hurdles and make it easier for the state's water districts to ban ion-exchange water softeners. Schwarzenegger told the Legislature:
Increasing the use of recycled water in the state is an absolutely necessary activity to increase water supply reliability for the future of our growing state. Unfortunately, this bill also includes provisions that go too far in limiting residential use of water softeners.
I recognize that excess salinity in surface and ground water is a serious water quality problem in various regions throughout the state, including the Central Valley and southern California. However, current law already includes provisions that allow local agencies to regulate water softeners. The provisions of this bill create a system that could unduly limit choices for consumers and small water systems, with potentially little positive impact given the relatively limited contribution of water softeners to our salinity problems.
The Water Quality Association and Pacific WQA, with the active support of the salt industry and retailers, argued that the bill would deprive consumers of the means to protect their homes against the damage of hard water with little compensating environmental benefit.
Facing a midnight deadline, the Governor signed 81 bills and vetoed 58 as the budget-impasse-extended Legislature finally finished its 2008 session.
Well done. Thank you, Governor.
WaterTech Online ran a story yesterday noting a press release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautioning against using a "water softener which requires a lot of water." EPA could not confirm to WaterTech Online whether the agency considers all softeners to be water inefficient or just some.
The story continues, quoting Water Quality Association technical director Joe Harrison who explained
that while water softeners do use a weekly average of 50 gallons of water during their regeneration cycle, they save water in the long run. He said softer water makes cleaning quicker, easier and more effective, thereby reducing the amount of water needed for each cleaning task.
Because they reduce mineral-scale buildup that makes water-heater elements less efficient, Harrison added, water softeners also help reduce the cost of heating water, thus reducing energy use.
For the past quarter century, water utilities, particularly in drought-persistent California, have imposed a series of technology-forcing salt efficiency standards on the water treatment industry, often at the cost of less water efficiency. The real concern was never salt, but stretching scarce water supplies. In the past, stretching water supplies was focused on reducing the impacts of water softeners on the environment and, particularly, on water quality. The U.S. EPA statement, however, aguably, focuses on the larger and more appropriate concern: how much water does a water treatment device require to deliver its designed benefits?
This may be the opening salvo in an assault on the current "salt efficiency" paradigm by those concerned with "water use efficiency."
If you live in California, particularly if they have home water softeners -- or if you have friends of the salt industry in California -- you need to take a look at a new website "Don't let the politicians take your water softener ." The site offers an easy way for California citizens to register opposition to CA AB2270.
If passed, AB 2270 would allow the government to intrude into a private residence and remove an appliance. If your softener is banned, your pipes, appliances and even clothes will fall apart faster and your energy costs will increase.
The Salt Institute opposes the bill.
The Legislature will act in August. If you value your water softener, the time to act is NOW.
The growing shortage of water around the world is no laughing matter. As highlighted in the article, "A Glass Half Full ," over the next 20 years, it is highly likely that many areas of our country and the rest of the world will face dramatic changes in the availability, quality, disposal and regulation of our water supplies. There are few new sources of conventional fresh water left to exploit. Everything we have is already allocated to specific uses.
On the other hand, there are unlimited supplies of sea water, brackish water and impaired groundwater available for desalination. While the desalination process removes salt from water, it likewise removes all other minerals. Since the process was growing so rapidly on an international basis, the World Health Organization decided to seek advice on the value of remineralizing desalinated water. They organized a workshop in Rome in 2003 as well as a symposium in Baltimore and follow-on Expert Consultation in Washington in 2006.
After spending close to 20 years with the largest UN agency, I am intimately familiar with UN Expert Consultations, Workshops and Symposia - all too often they are designed to reinforce the agenda of the staff members that organize these events. It is a rare occasion when objectivity surfaces. In this case, although several well thought out interventions were presented by competent professionals from around the world, WHO ignored them in their drive to establish recommendations to have desalinated water remineralized.
Their draft report, "Desalination for Safe Water Supply " repeats their recommendation for the remineralization of desalinated water. The Salt Institute responded that the goal of this initiative was to improve health, yet the draft report does not provide any evidence that the suggested proposals will yield any beneficial results. Even at the recommended levels of calcium and magnesium remineralization, less than 10 percent of the Daily Recommended Intake amounts can be obtained from drinking water. Just as with fluorides, there are more practical vehicles for delivery of trace mineral nutrients than public water supplies - a good deal of which is used for purposes other than drinking.
Food is clearly the appropriate vehicle for magnesium . A good food source of magnesium contains a substantial amount of magnesium in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (U.S. RDA) for magnesium in a selected serving size. The U.S. RDA for magnesium is 400 milligrams per day. The most recent research confirms that food should remain the best vehicle for magnesium delivery.
The Salt Institute also believes that it would have been prudent for WHO to consult with the Nutrition and Consumer Division of FAO on this matter. FAO has a fertilizer group dedicated to soil nutrition and an essential part of its goals focus upon the benefits for human and animal nutrition. Magnesium is an essential soil nutrient in all sustainable agriculture. Had there been a joint WHO/FAO study group and call for better soil management practices, particularly regarding magnesium and calcium fertilization, agricultural yields would increase and, more importantly from a nutritional point of view, there would be an immediate increase in the levels of calcium and magnesium in a very broad range of foods, thus achieving WHO's goals.
While we wholeheartedly support the overall goals of WHO, the Organization's tunnel vision approach on magnesium and calcium nutrition for desalinated water does not reflect what should have been the functional synergies to be gained through working together with FAO and other cogent UN sister agencies.
On June 14, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety bulletin warning that some chlorine railcar transfer systems lack effective detection and emergency shutdown devices, leaving the public vulnerable to potential large-scale toxic releases. The Board formally recommended that the U.S. Department of Transportation expand its regulatory coverage to require facilities that unload chlorine railcars to install remotely operated emergency isolation devices to quickly shut down the flow of chlorine in the event of a hose rupture or other failure in the unloading equipment.
Coincidentally, the bulletin raises, yet again, security concerns about transporting chlorine, concerns that are prompting chlorine-using agencies to consider installing on-site chlorinators to avoid spills, releases and becoming a terrrorist target . Mort Satin has reported twice recently on this ( 1 2 ). CSB offered two "incident" reports to underline the seriousness of their concerns:
- June 28, 2004 - The collision of two trains near Macdona, Texas caused a release of liquefied chlorine from one of the train's tank cars. The chlorine vaporized, engulfed the area and led to the deaths of the train conductor and two local residents.
- January 6, 2005 - In Graniteville, South Carolina, a Norfolk Southern train collided with a stationary train, leading to a derailment, and the release of an estimated 120,000 pounds of chlorine. The derailment and resulting chlorine release caused 9 deaths, led to over 500 persons seeking medical treatment for possible chlorine exposure and the mandatory evacuation of over 5,000 residents.
Current bulk chlorine customers receiving chlorine by railcars, barges or tank trucks are in the process of implementing safety guidelines developed by the Chlorine Institute with a deadline at the end of this year. Customers who take delivery in one-ton containers or cyllinders have an additional year to comply.
Jerry L. Poe, Director of Technical Services at North American Salt Co., (Compass Minerals), Overland Park, KS published an excellent article in the December issue of WaterTech online. Entitled, Salt - an Ally in the Iron Wars, the article describes the considerable problems encountered in water conditioning with high-iron waters.
Jerry goes on to provide advice on cleaning up iron-fouled resin beads through the use of reducing and chelating agents followed by salt regeneration. This article is just the sort of practical, down to earth information that water conditioner users need in order to keep their equipment in top operation condition.
Congratulations, Jerry. Well done!!
Areas like Florida and California where population growth has outstripped fresh drinking water supplies, regularly consider denying homeowners the free use of water-using appliances like water softeners, dishwashers, etc. as a means of reducing water use. With that thought in mind, consider this news from Southwest Florida.
Lee County Sheriff' 's officials, earlier this month, reported appliance thefts at new home construction sites: 81 such thefts were reported January-June (lest you think it's a crime wave, this is about a 1% theft rate for new homes). Thieves are "consumers" of a sort, so some free market research is available. Top "choices" were, natch, air conditioners (58), followed by ovens (17), then water softeners, tied with refrigerators (13) and trailing badly, washing machines (10). Criminals want to be cool, but not clean, I guess.
After blogging at bedtime concerning manipulation of science in public health, I awoke this morning to a related story in today's New York Times explaining why none of us should take great comfort in the "peer review" process of medical journals and highlighting how journals and authors "spin" their stories by pre-empting the findings with news releases before anyone else has seen the study. Our experience confirms that practice: witness how NHLBI released the DASH-Sodium study data; reporters were calling me before the study was available asking for a response, but how do you respond responsibly when you have only the author's news release as the "data" upon which to comment?