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Re: Whole house water conditioning and aquarium water


My city shares the arsenic problem that your town has.  Our water isn't as 
hard as yours, but it has other problems.

First, don't worry too much about the arsenic problem.  It's pretty hard to 
identify a health risk.  Arsenic supposedly increases the chances of certain 
cancers of internal organs.  Albuquerque (my town) is the largest "at-risk" 
population in the country, with an average arsenic concentration in the 
supply that exceeds the promulgated standard and a few neighborhoods (mine, 
for instance) where the arsenic in the city water supply was sometimes 5 
times larger than the standard.  Despite that, Albuquerque has a lower than 
average incidence of those cancers that we are supposed to be at risk for.

So you don't need to do anything without taking the time to consider your 
options.  In the mean time, keep an eye on your town's progress with fixing 
the arsenic problem.  In my experience, public water systems are *very* 
concerned about meeting public health requirements.  If they don't, then 
incumbent politicians tend to lose elections.  Keep track of progress and 
make sure the political system works the way it's supposed to.

A good whole-house system might be to put a standard water softener system on 
the feed to your hot water system.  That should slow down the growth of new 
deposits in the water heater and the hot water pipes.  That should also leave 
your cold water unsoftened.  Artificially softened water is bad for lawns and 
gardens, bad for house plants and bad for aquariums because of its high ratio 
of sodium to calcium+magnesium, so you want the cold water unsoftened.  In 
some cases the high sodium levels in softened water -- aside from tasting bad 
-- can even be a human health problem.  Warm water for washing is a mixture 
of softened hot water and unsoftened cold water.  The mixture should be soft 
enough to give you the benefit of softer water without the cost and downside 
of having the cold water softened.

If you want to do something else for your drinking water, then do that with a 
different system.  Buying bottled water is probably an expensive alternative. 
A deionizer (Brita, for instance) is inexpensive and works well but is fairly 
expensive to maintain.  An under-counter RO system is more expensive to set 
up but less expensive to maintain.  It also wastes water, because RO system 
often drain about 3 times as much water as they filter and store.  RO systems 
are attractive for kitchen installations where they can supply water to both 
the sink for drinking and the ice maker for clear, fresh ice.  If you get a 
large enough system then you can also produce enough RO water to mix some 
back with your tap water and get water for your aquariums at whatever 
hardness level you want.

Roger Miller