October 2016

How Minerals Make Your Water Hard in the UK

how-minerals-make-your-water-hard-in-the-ukA major part of the United Kingdom receive hard water. It occurs due to the abundance of sedimentary rocks in the entire UK. This accounts for about 13 million households in the country. Rainwater that fills boreholes, reservoirs, rivers and streams where water supply come from is naturally soft. But since water is a very good solvent, it erodes parts of soft rocks like limestone and chalk, picking up the magnesium and calcium mineral contained in the rocks. These and small amounts of other minerals make for hard water.

There are some parts in the UK that do not receive hard water, though. Due to the regions’ geology, what they have is soft water, such as the regions located to the west and north of the UK. The development of wider networks of water distribution however, there are parts of the UK that formerly get soft water, now are supplied with hard water.

Hard water map

Lincoln, London, Brighton, Bristol and Southampton, including parts of Birmingham have hard to very hard water. Manchester and many parts of Birmingham as well as Newcastle upon Tyne receive slightly hard to moderately hard water. The rest of the country generally receive soft and moderately soft water. The abundance of soft rocks in several areas of the UK is what contributes to the water hardness in the country. Those areas with hard rocks are also the areas that receive soft water.

The concentration of multivalent cations (positively charged metal complexes) determine the hardness of the water. Most common minerals found in the water are magnesium bicarbonate and calcium bicarbonate. These minerals contribute to the temporary hardness of the water. The application of  a water softener removes these minerals from the water you use. These can be removed by boiling the water also.

There are other minerals, such as magnesium sulphate and calcium sulphate that make the water permanently hard. You’ll know your water is permanently hard when these minerals are not removed from the water by boiling. Just like the temporary hardness, it can also be removed by using water softeners.

Health benefits of hard water

Even very hard water is not harmful to health. The minerals in hard water, such as calcium and magnesium are beneficial to health. Hard water sometimes receive a bad rap. However, consider these benefits:

  • The mineral content in hard water supplement your daily dietary needs.
  • Hard water is better tasting than soft water.
  • Minerals in hard water reduce the solubility of some toxic metal ions such as lead and copper.
  • Pipe corrosion occurs more in areas that receives soft water.
  • Toxic metals such as cadmium and lead are easily dissolved by soft water.

Hard water solution

The main solution recommended for hard water is to use a water softener. Ion exchange is the process that is employed when using water softeners. This means that calcium and magnesium are replaced by sodium. Water softener is slightly more expensive than water conditioner, but it also provides the advantage of treating small amounts of other metals found in hard water, including zinc, iron or copper. Water softening unit uses sodium chloride or common table salt to change the mineral ions into sodium ions.

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