Photo of a home water softener system How to reduce the effects of a Water Softener or Water Conditioner (salt and water volume) on septic systems

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How to reduce the effects of a Water Softener or Water Conditioner (salt and water volume) on septic systems : this article provides tips on how to minimize the volume of water used and amount of salt damage to septic tanks and drainfields.

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How to reduce the impact of a water softener on the Septic System and on Groundwater

Drainfield trench detail USDA At SALT OR WATER INTO SEPTIC we explain the impact and possible damage of (an improperly operating) water softener on septic systems or on building drinking water.

If your water treatment equipment, such as a water softener, sulphur-odor remover, sediment filter, or chlorinator is properly adjusted, the concentration of chemicals discharged by the equipment should not harm the septic tank and drainfield, according to a septic-bacteria microbiologist whom we consulted.

He explained that in a properly-operating water softener system the concentration of salt released into the septic system would be so low as to be harmless to the bacteria needed in septic tanks and drainfields.

But if water treatment is not working properly, or if it is simply not adjusted properly, both the water volume discharged by the equipment and the concentration of chemicals or salts discharged by the equipment might be a problem for the septic tank or drainfield. Here we list things you can do to protect the septic system from harm from water treatment equipment.

  • Adjust the water softener to the recommended settings for the level of hardness of your water supply. (Some water softeners actually monitor water hardness and water usage and will adjust the recharge cycle frequency and salt dose automatically. Other water softeners require that these settings be made manually. Still simpler water softeners have no automatic recharge cycle and must be backwashed and recharged manually.

    See   SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS for details of how to do this, but also remember to check the actual hardness of your water supply and to adjust the softer according to the tables and instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Set the water softener operating controls correctly as we discuss at Guide to Water softener Adjustment below. Be sure the water softener backwash frequency and salt dose are set properly for the hardness of your water and water volume usage. See   SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS for details.
  • Don't use a water softener if it is not necessary. Test your water for hardness.
  • Watch for malfunctioning water softening equipment: if you hear water running continuously in your drain you should track down the source to a leaky toilet tank, faucet, or malfunctioning water softener, etc.
    We have seen a septic drainfield completely flooded by a water softener that stuck in it's "backwash" cycle.

    Similarly, if a water softener is not properly adjusted it may use more salt, more potassium permanganate, or other water treatment chemicals than it should. Flushing salt, potassium permanganate, chlorine, or other chemicals into the septic system can cause a problem if it kills off septic tank bacteria or soil bacteria.
  • Turn off the water softener when the building will be unoccupied. There is no need to recharge the water softener when no water is being used in the home. See Winterize Water Softener & Treatment Equip for the water softener shut-down procedure.
  • Photo of a water softener bypass controlBypass the water softener when you are watering plants or washing the car.

    Some plumbers install a water line direct to an outside faucet, bypassing the water softener for this purpose.

    If you do not have a separate water line to an outside hose bib, you can temporarily put the water softener on "bypass" using a push-type control such as the one shown in this photograph.

    Remember to push the bypass lever back to softening position after such an outside use of water, lest you forget and clog your pipes with minerals. See Winterize Water Softener & Treatment Equip for details on how to do this.
  • Use salt alternatives in the water softener: potassium chloride may be an acceptable alternative to normal salt or sodium chloride for problem areas
  • Use a separate drywell to receive water softener backwash. This reduces the wastewater load on the septic system drainfield or seepage bed. Using a separate drywell to receive water softener backwash, or backwash from any water treatment equipment, also reduces the chances that water treatment chemicals will harm bacteria in the septic tank or drainfield.

    Water treatment chemicals such as salt, potassium permanganate (often used to remove a sulphur odor from water), chlorine or other disinfectants will not usually harm a septic system provided that they enter the septic tank in a dilute solution such as that provided by a normal, properly-adjusted water softener.

    But should the equipment mal-function or be mal-adjusted, both water quantity and chemicals in water discharged by the treatment equipment might be a problem.
  • Connect to municipal water supply (if available) so that your water will arrive already properly conditioned and wont' require softening
  • See water softener maintenance guide of how to adjust the water softener and how to clean the water softener salt tank at   SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS


Continue reading at SALT / SOFT WATER IMPACT on SEPTIC, PLUMBING, HEATERS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.


Or seeSOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS how to adjust the water softener


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REDUCE IMPACT of SOFTENER on SEPTIC at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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