Apart from billing information, one of the most common subjects about which the Englewood Water Department receives inquiries is water hardness, or, more accurately, the white mineral spots and film that appear on dishes, silverware and plumbing fixtures. Most of the questions center around what is it, is it harmful and what can I do about it.
What are those white spots on my dishes? The white spots or film that form on dishes and flatware (most commonly in dishwashers) is from hard water. Water that is hard is high in harmless dissolved minerals, most commonly compounds of calcium and magnesium. As the water flows through soil and rock it dissolves very small amounts of the minerals present. The more minerals the water dissolves, the harder the water gets.
Hardness is measured in either parts per million (ppm) or grains per gallon (gpg).
- Less than 4 gpg (70 ppm) is considered to be soft.
- 4 to 7 gpg (70 to 120 ppm) is considered to be moderately hard
- 7 to 10.5 gpg (120 to 180 ppm) is hard
- Over 10.5 gpg (180 ppm) is considered to be very hard.
Englewood's hardness varies throughout the year from a low of about 100 ppm in the spring to highs in the low 300 ppm during the winter months. Nationwide, Englewood sits in the middle of a region that typically experiences very hard water. According to a USGS study conducted in 1975, most of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and the western halves of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas have the hardest water in the 48 states. (http://water.usgs.gov/edu/hardness.html)
Is hard water safe to drink?
Yes, hard water is safe for drinking, cooking and cleaning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health do not consider hard water a health issue and have not found it necessary to set standards or limits. In fact, the National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) states that hard drinking water generally contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs (National Research Council, Drinking Water Health, Volume 3, Nation Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1980). If you have special concerns or health issues, check with your personal physician.
What can I do to minimize the effects of hard water?
For laundry and cleaning, there are a variety of products available that are designed for use with hard water. Check the detergent isle at your grocery store or look on the internet for recommendations.
In your dishwasher a cup of inexpensive, white vinegar will remove and control the buildup of spots and film. Again, there are cleaning products specifically designed for this use that can be found in your grocery store or on the internet.
The ultimate home solution is the installation of a water softer. Check with your local distributors for recommendations and pricing.