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Arizona has hard water; that’s a given. But once you accept that fact, you have to decide what to do about the water at your house.

Here are the basics: The U.S. Department of Interior defines water as being slightly hard when it has from 1 to 3.5 grains per gallon of calcium and magnesium bicarbonates occurring naturally in the water. In Arizona, hardness levels can exceed 20 grains per gallon, but these levels are not dangerous. After all, about 80 percent of the water in the United States is considered hard.

What homeowners don’t like is that these minerals can cause scale to build up inside plumbing and appliances. The useful life of a dishwasher and a water heater can be shortened as a result. The harder the water, the grayer the “whites” look when you do laundry.

Some of us don’t like the taste of the water either. You can just use carbon filtration to improve the taste. But a reverse osmosis system or distillation unit can do even more to clarify your water by combining carbon filtration with removal of dissolved solids or what some people call “floaties.”

When it comes to the hardness of the water, however, we recommend buying or renting a water softening system to handle the issue. That’s the only way to end or minimize scale on shower walls as well as mineral build-up in appliances and your water-heater. In the process, you can eliminate dry skin problems and cut back on use of soaps, detergents, shampoos, and fabric softeners

If you’re doing your homework before you buy or rent, you’re likely to hear many myths about what water treatment does and doesn’t do, according to David Perry, executive director of the Arizona Water Quality Association, a non-profit trade organization. Here are some of the claims you may hear and why you should discount them:

Myth No. 1: You can soften water with a salt-free system. That is just not possible. Systems that say they are no-salt softeners are actually just scale inhibitors. Some can decrease the scale inside appliances; but some will hardly affect that scale at all. These alternative treatment firms may use magnetic, catalytic, electric or electro-dialysis equipment. Most of these firms offer no independent confirmation that they can remove calcium or magnesium ions from water or reduce scale formation. Often these systems are coupled with a carbon filter to make drinking water taste better. But the best way to reduce hardness in water is by installing an ion-exchange softener. It will remove hardness – the scale-forming calcium and magnesium – by replacing it with sodium chloride or potassium chloride.

Myth No. 2: By removing dissolved solids from water you will deprive your body of healthy nutrients like calcium and magnesium, prevalent in hard water. The problem with that argument is that the calcium and magnesium in your water are in an inorganic form that your body cannot digest in the way that it can with minerals found in your food or in dietary supplements.
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