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Santa Clarita taps into a change

Treatment converts hard water to soft

Posted: November 30, 2008 7:44 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2008 4:59 a.m.
 
State and city legislators have seen the future of water, and the future feels soft.

Standing on the dry west bank of San Francisquito Creek a few weeks ago, Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar and Sen. George Runner, witnessed a way of turning hard water into soft water that promises to revolutionize water softening.

Since September, about 400 Copper Hill Drive area residents have turned on their taps to get soft, clean drinking water, ending their days of dealing with hard water issues.

"The days of salt-based water softening systems in homes is over," Kellar said after his tour of an experimental water softening operation built by the Valencia Water Co.

"It's time we became more sensitive to the environment," he said.

The experiment was officially unveiled Nov. 18 and is called the Groundwater Softening Demonstration Project.

If successful, the pre-softening process could be widened to include all water users in Santa Clarita Valley, according to Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which supplies water to all local residents through sales to the Valencia Water Co. and three other water retailers.

"The process has merit," he said, reflecting on the pre-softening technology.

He said the experiment "will help determine customer satisfaction and willingness to abandon traditional water softening, which could make the process cost-effective to implement throughout the Valencia Water Co. system and perhaps by other purveyors."

For one year, company officials will monitor the implementation and response to a process, which by their claim, does not impact the environment in any harmful way.

Sodium hydroxide added to a mixture of water and sand draws the calcium out of the water and coats each grain of sand.

The only thing produced with this technology - first introduced in the Netherlands - is soft, clean drinking water and grains of sand coated with a calcium shell.

"The Valencia Water Co. has to be commended for taking such an avant-garde approach to this problem," said Runner, R-Antelope Valley, referring to hard water.

"They met with me two or three years ago about this. That's when we first started talking about it," he said. "I'm glad to see the outcome and see that they're addressing it in an aggressive way."

Two years ago, the senator authored state bill SB475, that was signed into law and authorized county sanitation districts that discharge into the Santa Clara River to require the removal of all residential water softening or conditioning appliances that discharge into the community sewer system.

Less than two weeks before the Valencia Water Co. unveiled its water softening technology, Santa Clarita Valley residents voted to remove all salt-based self-regenerating water softeners installed in local homes.

The ban on all in-home salt-based water softeners in the valley goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

The people who pushed for Measure S on last month's ballot argued that getting rid of existing water softeners will reduce the amount of salt that ends up in the Santa Clara River. Salt is harmful to crops such as strawberries and avocados downstream.

Primarily dry most of the year, the Santa Clara is the last natural river in the Los Angeles region, and stretches some 116 miles from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific coast in Oxnard.

"Salt and the problem of disposing it is not unique to Santa Clarita Valley," said Runner, who has many constituents downstream of the Santa Clara River. "This is a significant problem in Santa Clarita, but also in Fillmore and Santa Paula."

Valencia Water Co. President Robert DiPrimo is proud of his firm's pre-softening setup.

"I've been searching for this technology for years," he said. "And the people who were here to see it were impressed with the simplicity of the treatment process."

Under the recently-passed measure, valley residents owning in-home water softeners can get a rebate of up to $2,000 for their device.

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