Aqua Indiana’s “Softer” Water

We are customers of Aqua Indiana, the providers of our water and sewer services. As Aqua’s customers, we closely follow any events and news items related to them. Last year, I read an article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette about Aqua’s intention to install equipment at their water treatment facility that would soften the water. This interested me, because Aqua’s water was very hard, meaning it contained a high proportion of various minerals. Anyone who has ever washed dishes and taken baths and showers with hard water, and then did the same things with softened water, understand the vast difference between the two states of water.

But there really isn’t a fine line between hard and soft water. The articles published about Aqua Indiana’s effort to soften our water estimated that their final soft water product would be harder, for example, than the water served up by the City of Fort Wayne to their residents. The main reason for the difference in the softness of water between the two providers is that Fort Wayne takes its water from rivers, whereas Aqua Indiana pumps its water out of wells. The water underground is much harder than the water flowing through rivers.

We received a letter recently from Aqua Indiana, telling us when to expect our water to be treated for hardness. After that date, I decided to put Aqua’s new “softer” water to the test by flipping the bypass switch on my water softener to see exactly what Aqua was talking about. For several weeks, we used the new softer water. The proof, so it is said, is in the pudding. Hardness numbers and proportions and comparisons are OK, but give me the product and let me try it myself.

It only took a couple of days before we had used up all remaining remnants of our softened water out of our water heater tank. When that happened, it became painfully obvious to us that Aqua’s new water wouldn’t do us much good, at least in regard to washing dishes, taking showers, and general household cleaning. The water wouldn’t “suds up” very well. When I brushed my teeth, little foam was generated during the process. Shaving didn’t work very well either. It took more shave cream to make enough lather to allow me to get a close shave. Showering was no fun. It took about twice as much soap to generate the suds we were used to. Then it took more water to rinse with, because the soap didn’t break down quickly during the rinsing process.

But wait. Aqua’s effort is not a total loss.

Our drinking water is not routed through our water softener. We use that water for drinking, cooking, and making coffee. Our Bunn coffee maker has a small, plastic sprayhead through which the hot water passes before inundating the coffee grounds. Before the Aqua water softening process was implemented, the small holes in that sprayhead would have to be de-limed at least once a week and sometimes more often. Now, I would say that we have to clean those little holes out about once every three weeks. So, you see, the millions of dollars Aqua spent on that new equipment did accomplish something positive.

According to the Journal-Gazette in an article on Sunday, January 10, water hardness is rated thus in parts per million of calcium and magnesium to water:

Less than 17.1 = Soft

17.1 to 60 = Slightly hard

60 to 120 = Moderately hard

120 to 180 = Hard

More than 180 = Very hard

If, as Aqua says, their water is now approximately in the 100 range, the water is high in the “moderately hard” range. The bottom line for me is that I still must soften our water in order to make it usable for anything other than drinking.

Now Aqua will submit a request to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for a rate increase. Yes, they have already stated that they will do so. They also have stated that they expect to ask for another couple of dollars per month on each residential bill. I don’t think the change in my coffee pot cleaning schedule is worth a couple of dollars a month to me. I don’t expect to spend much less per year on softening our water, but I shall see as the year progresses. So I’ll reserve my final judgment till about this time next year.

In the meantime, I think Aqua Indiana should suck up the expense of softening our water and just say they are trying to make their customers happier and less antagonistic about last year’s 75% rate hike. That would be the nice thing to do. But Aqua is in business to make money, so they will not fail to pass along the expense of “softening” the water to us, and make a few extra bucks in the process.

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