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Dec 10, 2011: Water Myths


A well respected retired lecturer in chemistry from a Canadian university has built up a renowned site that de-bunks a number of water myths used by some firms. The science of water chemistry is well represented here and water myths are decoded in a fun and educational way.  www.chem1.com 


One of the most common myths water treatment firms often face is the perception from potential water softener buyers and usually most plumbers is that somehow the soft water produced by a water softener is in some way salty? This is actually as far from the truth as can be imagined except for the fact that a slight trace level of sodium is found in softened water but usually well within EU limits of 200 mg/L.

Plumbers often refer to a water softener as "the salt unit" and they refer to soft water as "salty". Oh Lord, why is this assumed - because of course a water softener uses bags of salt in the wash out operation, however, no sodium chloride is imparted into the softened water stream.  As there is zero chloride in softened water then it can be safely said that there is zero salt per se.  Laboratory tests confirm this time and time again, and the sodium levels are often tested at between 80 mg/L and 140 mg/L.

As many bottled waters like Tesco "Still" and "San Pellegrino" have between 90 mg/L and 130 mg/L also supermarket milk having 200 mg/L and above, it follows that as long as you are fit to drink bottled waters and milk then it is perfectly fine to drink softened water.  In fact softened water usually has less in the way of heavy metals that any other form of dispensed water except RO water, and there are a number of reductions in sediments and things like radium, strontium and a host of other lab tested parameters.

So is softened water in any way salty?  No, of course not, it is the salty tasting chloride that imparts the salty taste in brine solution, a water softener has zero chlorides, also you would need over 2000 mg/L of chloride to get the faintest level of salt taste, and products like bacon, ham and mustard have levels that exceed 2000 mg/L in chloride so anything below these levels would be hard to detect.  Pure brine solution with maximum sodium chloride would have 260,000 mg/L sodium chloride of which 60% is chloride.  Sea water has 100,000 to 140,000 sodium chloride levels obviously very salty by its taste.

Drinking just softened water on a daily basis in volumes of over 2 ltrs without drinking any other tipple, would mean your sodium intake may on average rise by 5% to 10% depending on the local water hardness, so there is an argument that maybe those on very low sodium diets who drink a lot of water may want to find avenues for cutting down on sodium intake and using less softened water and more RO filtered water would help reduce the small percentage altogether.  More about RO water and minerals below.


Another myth that has lingered for many years, often rearing its head from time to time, is the mineral water myth.  Do we need minerals in water?  When we use 99% of water for bathing, washing and toilets do we want minerals in this water?  How much minerals do we want in drinking water?  Do filter systems make water better?

A standard RO system (not the RODI type) installed directly on most water schemes in Galway County at values of 400 ppm hardness will provide from 20 mg/l to 40 mg/l of total hardness after filtering during normal service life, providing a higher level of minerals than many bottled water brands including many of Tesco's best selling bottled waters.

One Irish branded bottled water had only 1.5 mg/l of calcium and another had over 100 mg/l of sodium.  RO systems deliver typically 1 or 2 mg/L of sodium and a higher calcium level than many branded bottled waters.  If an RO is installed on softened water, the resulting filtered sodium level will be 5 to 10 mg/L - much less than most bottled waters.

Drinking softened water straight from the mains tap, in many other counties where the water is hard at 200 mg/l, means you will still have less sodium than the bottled waters that exceeded 100 mg/l.  (Depending on original background trace levels of sodium already present in the hard scheme water, which are often low.)

If minerals in water or taste was a question, a mineral cartridge can be installed after an RO where a water softener feed is present although less than one in a hundred RO users actually request or desire any adjustment to their RO systems.  Water is a very poor transport system for giving us the dietary minerals that we need.  Take for example the most important daily mineral vital for life and bodily survival - sodium.  We require 2,400 milligrammes of sodium per day to stay alive.

Drinking 2 litres of softened water, (only marginally higher than normal tap water in sodium) will not provide even 10% of the sodium figure that we need to keep alive.  Inorganic sodium, inorganic calcium, inorganic iron and in fact all minerals found in water are inorganic, and it is suggested they are only 1/20th as effective as the organic minerals found in natural food groups that we eat.

When colloidal / precipitated / inorganic minerals are found in water, if they have only 1/20th the benefit to the body than those found organically in food, then a factor like stomach acidity which gets lower the older we become (also which helps dissolve inorganic minerals) suggests a good food diet is more and more important as we age.

The RDI - Recommended Daily Intake of minerals depends on age along with a large range of other factors when looking at food intake so the matter of water borne minerals is a much wider and unknown science.


In the past when documentary makers have attempted to approach the mineral question, they have often failed badly in reporting a clear and accurate picture.

1)  RTE once demonstrated water tested on 151 water parameters.  This level of testing was beyond what the EU recommend as being needed in normal professional water testing and it confused the standard EU and EPA full audit testing requirements of around 25 to 50 items - the highest levels of testing currently used in day to day laboratory work.

2)  The RTE level of testing gave the idea that the public have to spend over 200 euros or more to correctly test their water.  Only 75 euros was sufficient at the time of filming for a full and extensive range of INAB tested water parameters for highly polluted private well waters, and 50 euros would have covered the mains water they were testing.

3)  RTE also stated that a Cork water sample (that was not fit for human consumption by EU standards - excessive fluoride) was viewed as one of the finest waters to drink.

4)  RTE allowed confusion for water low in minerals to be possibly harmful without giving any facts and figures relating to this, or indicating that we are provided with massive levels of minerals in comparison in foods.  Their suggestions went against established Irish and European Drinking Water Directives which state that there are no lower mineral limits set.

5) The RTE scientists interviewed were not experts in the field of water chemistry regarding chemical water parameters for potable use, failing to follow the position of the Irish EPA and EU Drinking Water Directives and so appeared to be at odds with the considered experts of the Irish EPA, and supporting scientists of the EU Community water standards.


There are no legal minimum water mineral levels enforceable in use in any EU household either in bottled water or tap water - if there was, we would have to stop buying hundreds of brands of bottled "Spring Waters" which often fail to provide less than 1% of RDI minerals by fluid concentration also thousands of naturally sourced water supplies would have to be closed down around Europe that exist in granite rock areas due to a near zero calcium and magnesium concentration that these waters exhibit.

On the other hand many other bottled waters would fail tap water regulations in having massive levels - sodium (60 times safe levels), arsenic (40 times safe levels), iron and sulphate (100 times safe levels) - see    http://www.mineralwaters.org


further links ...







Out of 15 national Irish brands of bottled water, at least two bottledwaters widely fail the EU Drinking Water standards set for tap water,and many brands sold in ireland fail to supply even 1% of our dailymineral requirements as set out in normal dietary RDI guidelines. 

Some legally available bottled waters on sale as compared to mains tap water supplied EU Drinking Water Directives ...   (*US EPA and **WHO guidelines)


Bad Mergentheimer Albertquelle  (Germany)

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)  42,000 mg/l    (US EPA max guideline 500 mg/l)
Calcium (Ca++)  794 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg++)  783 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  12,870 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Chloride (Cl-)  16,590 mg/l    (EU limit 250 mg/l)
Sulphate (SO4--)  7,370 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Fluoride (F-)  0.52 mg/l
Nitrate (NO3-)  < 0.1 mg/l
Iron (Fe++)  9.73 mg/l    (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)
Manganese (Mn++)  0.95 mg/l    (EU limit 0.05 mg/l)

Karlsquelle Heilwasser  (Germany)

Calcium (Ca++)  782 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg++)  389 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  4,795 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Chloride (Cl-)  6,382 mg/l    (EU limit 250 mg/l)
Sulphate (SO4--)  3,860 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Fluoride (F-)  0.27 mg/l
Iron (Fe++)  3.65 mg/l    (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)
Manganese (Mn++)  0.11 mg/l

Kissinger Bitterwasser Heilwasser  (Germany)

Calcium (Ca++)  539 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg++)  4,196 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  4,690 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Chloride (Cl-)  3,739 mg/l    (EU limit 250 mg/l)
Sulphate (SO4--)  21,634 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Fluoride (F-)  0.09 mg/l
Iron (Fe++)  0.05 mg/l
Manganese (Mn++)  0.48 mg/l


Vincentka  (Czech)

Acidity (PH)  6.1
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)  8,020 mg/l
Calcium (Ca++)  245.29 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg++)  18 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  2,017 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Sulphate (SO4--)  5.76 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Fluoride (F-)  2.13 mg/l    (EU limit 0.6 - 0.8 mg/l)
Nitrate (NO3-)  0.05 mg/l
Silica (SiO2)  21.12 mg/l
Iron (Fe++)  6.99 mg/l    (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)
Manganese (Mn++)  0.6 mg/l    (EU limit 0.05 mg/l)
Aluminium (Al+++)  3.36 mg/l    (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)


Mitterbad  (Italy)

Calcium (Ca++)  120 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg++)  13 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  15.3 mg/l
Potassium (K+)  14.3 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-)  1.6 mg/l
Sulphate (SO4--)  418 mg/l    (EU limit 200 mg/l)
Fluoride (F-)  3.4 mg/l    (EU limit 0.6 - 0.8 mg/l)
Iron (Fe++)  ?? mg/l    (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)
Manganese (Mn++)  1.97 mg/l    (EU limit 0.05 mg/l)
Aluminium (Al+++)  2.12 mg/l   (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)
Arsenic (As)  0.4 mg/l   (EU limit 0.01 mg/l)
Copper (Cu++)  0.088 mg/l
Strontium (Sr++)  0.8 mg/l

Alp's  (Austria)

Calcium (Ca++)  37.9 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg++)  15.2 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  4.6 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-)  < 1 mg/l
Sulphate (SO4--)  10.1 mg/l
Fluoride (F-)  4 mg/l
Nitrate (NO3-)  0.6 mg/l
Manganese (Mn++)  < 10 mg/l
Zinc (Zn++)  25.4 mg/l
Iodine (I-)  24 mg/l


Aveta Celtic Goddess of Healing Waters  (Eire)

Calcium (Ca++)  1.51 mg/l    (very poor calcium content - RDI 1000 mg)
Magnesium (Mg++)  16.6 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  67.25 mg/l
Potassium (K+)  1.45 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-)  89 mg/l
Sulphate (SO4--)  30.2 mg/l
Fluoride (F-)  0.13 mg/l
Nitrate (NO3-)  < 4.4 mg/l
Iron (Fe++)  ?? mg/l    (EU limit 0.2 mg/l)
Strontium (Sr++)  0.9 mg/l

Fior Uisce  (Eire)

Acidity (PH)  7.6
Calcium (Ca++)  63 mg/l)
Magnesium (Mg++)  6.68 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  73 mg/l
Potassium (K+)  15 mg/l
Bicarbonate (HCO3-)  175 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-)  35.96 mg/l
Sulphate (SO4--)  152 mg/l
Nitrate (NO3-)  <0.04 mg/l


Mace Sparkling Irish Spring Water  (Eire)

Acidity (PH)  7.6
Calcium (Ca++)  8 mg/l    (low calcium content - RDI 1000 mg [less than 1% of daily needs])
Magnesium (Mg++)  8 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  31 mg/l
Potassium (K+)  0.3 mg/l
Bicarbonate (HCO3-)  95.7 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-)  26 mg/l
Sulphate (SO4--)  5 mg/l
Nitrate (NO3-)  0.5 mg/l


Volvic  (France)

Calcium (Ca++)  9.9 mg/l    (low calcium content - RDI 1000 mg [less than 1% of daily needs])
Magnesium (Mg++)  6.1 mg/l
Sodium (Na+)  9.4 mg/l
Potassium (K+)  5.7 mg/l
Bicarbonate (HCO3-)  258 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-)  8.4 mg/l
Sulphate (SO4--)  6.9 mg/l
Nitrate (NO3-)  6.3 mg/l
Silica (SiO2)  30 mg/l
Iron (Fe++) < 0.01 mg/l
Aluminium (Al+++) < 0.01 mg/l  

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