Studies on the relationship between a water softener and septic system have gone as far back as the 70’s, through organizations such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), Water Quality Association (WQA) and Small Scale Waste Management Project (SSWMP) at the University of Wisconsin. Research shows that not only does an efficient, well operating water softener have no negative effect on septic systems but the water softener has a potential to aid it.

How a septic system works.

Understanding the components of a septic system is helpful in order to understand any potential effects your water softener can have on it. A conventional septic system consists of a septic tank, a distribution box, and a drainfield, all connected by pipes. Wastewater travels through pipes from the home to the septic tank where the solids (sludge) go to the bottom of the tank and lighter material float to the top (scum layer). During the septic treatment process, both layers are partially decomposed with the help of bacteria that naturally occurs in human waste. The septic tank discharges water into a drain field as more wastewater is released from the home.

how a septic system works

How a water softener works.

Now that you know the basics of a septic system, let’s briefly explain the water softener basics to help you better understand the relationship between a septic system and a water softener.

Please visit our “How a Water Softener Works” article for a more in depth description. Water softeners remove hard minerals from your water that may be causing build up in your plumbing and appliancesdry hair and skin, stained laundry, spotty glassware,  and more household headaches. Most water softeners consist a media tank, and the brine tank. The media tank holds the resin that removes nuisance minerals so soft water can be distributed throughout the home. The water softener’s brine tank stores salt and will add water as needed to dissolve the salt into the brine solution. The brine (salt water) is used to clean the resin, knocking off the hardness minerals it gathered and sending them to the drain, so the unit is ready to remove more minerals.

how a water softener works

Why a water softener can help a septic system function better.

One myth associated with a water softener and a septic system is that the sodium in softened waste reduces the effectiveness of the bacteria your septic system needs. Although studies conducted by the University of Wisconsin have found this to be untrue. The University found that soft water can increase the biological performance in the septic tank. The right amount of sodium in the soft water aids bacterial growth, optimizing the septic treatment process.  Another bonus to having soft water is using less soaps, detergents and chemicals when cleaning. By using minimal amounts of cleaning supplies there is less to worry about when it to comes to the effect these chemicals can have on your septic system.

Why an efficient water softener will not disrupt a septic system.

The small amount of wastewater produced by the regeneration process, discharged to your septic tank is sometimes misconceived as disruptive.  One concern with water softeners and septic systems is that the amount and flow rate of the brine discharge can overflow a septic tank and back up the drain field. A study commissioned in 2012 by the Water Quality Research Foundation,  reported that brine discharge from well operated water softeners (50 gallons per regeneration)  showed no overflow. The discharge was no more or less than that of any other household water using appliance.

Why it is it necessary to have a high performance water softener.

It is important to understand how the quality of a water softener can influence a septic system. The discussion of a water softener and a septic system is on-going in part due to extremely inefficient softeners that remain in use. Poorly operating water softeners can produce too much brine waste when regenerating more than necessary, which in some cases may cause problems to arise with older septic systems. If the water softener is releasing too much salt and water, this could have a negative effect on your septic system’s function. That’s why it is so important to have a properly operating and efficient water softener system in any home.

Where to look for efficient water softeners.

Water treatment professionals offer significant value when it comes to finding the right water treatment for your home.

Water-Right offers many solutions for every family, guaranteeing you will find the right treatment for your household water needs. If you have more questions on how a water softener might influence the function of your septic system contact your local dealer. For more answers on other water softener myths, visit our “Myths About Water Softeners” page.



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