Monthly Archives: December 2011


HARD WATER (1.1 – 1.2) AND WATER SOFTENING (2.1 – 2.5)
Lenntech. “Water Softener Frequently Asked Questions.” (June 13, 2011)


1.1 What is hard water?

When water is referred to as ‘hard’ this simply means, that it contains more minerals than ordinary water. These are especially the minerals calcium and magnesium. The degree of hardness of the water increases when more calcium and magnesium dissolves.
Magnesium and calcium are positively charged ions. Because of their presence, other positively charged ions will dissolve less easily in hard water than in water that does not contain calcium and magnesium.
This is the cause of the fact that soap doesn’t really dissolve in hard water.

1.2 Which industries attach value to hardness of water?

In many industrial applications, such as the drinking water preparation, in breweries and in sodas, but also for cooling- and boiler feed water the hardness of the water is very important.


2.1 What is water softening?

When water contains a significant amount of calcium and magnesium, it is called hard water. Hard water is known to clog pipes and to complicate soap and detergent dissolving in water.
Water softening is a technique that serves the removal of the ions that cause the water to be hard, in most cases calcium and magnesium ions. Iron ions may also be removed during softening.
The best way to soften water is to use a water softener unit and connect it directly to the water supply.

2.2 What is a water softener?

A water softener is a unit that is used to soften water, by removing the minerals that cause the water to be hard.

2.3 Why is water softening applied?

Water softening is an important process, because the hardness of water in households and companies is reduced during this process.
When water is hard, it can clog pipes and soap will dissolve in it less easily. Water softening can prevent these negative effects.
Hard water causes a higher risk of lime scale deposits in household water systems. Due to this lime scale build-up, pipes are blocked and the efficiency of hot boilers and tanks is reduced. This increases the cost of domestic water heating by about fifteen to twenty percent.
Another negative effect of lime scale is that it has damaging effects on household machinery, such as laundry machines.
Water softening means expanding the life span of household machine, such as laundry machines, and the life span of pipelines. It also contributes to the improved working, and longer lifespan of solar heating systems, air conditioning units and many other water-based applications.

2.4 What does a water softener do?

Water softeners are specific ion exchangers that are designed to remove ions, which are positively charged.
Softeners mainly remove calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions. Calcium and magnesium are often referred to as ‘hardness minerals’.
Softeners are sometimes even applied to remove iron. The softening devices are able to remove up to five milligrams per litre (5 mg/L) of dissolved iron.
Softeners can operate automatic, semi-automatic, or manual. Each type is rated on the amount of hardness it can remove before regeneration is necessary.

A water softener collects hardness minerals within its conditioning tank and from time to time flushes them away to drain.
Ion exchangers are often used for water softening. When an ion exchanger is applied for water softening, it will replace the calcium and magnesium ions in the water with other ions, for instance sodium or potassium. The exchanger ions are added to the ion exchanger reservoir as sodium and potassium salts (NaCl and KCl).

2.5 How long does a water softener last?

A good water softener will last many years. Softeners that were supplied in the 1980’s may still work, and many need little maintenance, besides filling them with salt occasionally.


The Niagara Escarpment was created by ancient seas and is essentially a cliff that runs through Southern Ontario, from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and beyond. Not surprisingly, it is responsible for numerous waterfalls, the most famous of which is Niagara Falls. Any river or stream that originates above the escarpment and flows towards Lake Ontario or the Georgian Bay is going to fall off the escarpment at some point, resulting in a waterfall.
The Bruce Trail follows the escarpment from Tobermory all the way to Niagara falls, and passes by dozens of waterfalls.
If you travel from Tobermory to Niagara, some of the falls you will pass (in order) are:

1. Indian Falls   2. Jones Falls   3. Inglis Falls    4. Eugenia Falls   5. Smokey Hollow Falls

6. Borers Falls   7. Webster Falls   8. Tews Falls   9. Sherman Falls   10. Albion Falls

11. Felkers Falls   12. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls   13. Beamer Falls   14. Ball’s Falls

15. Rockway Falls   16. Decew Falls   17. Niagara

Click on the link below for stunning photography of the falls mentioned above:

You will also find Keefer Falls,Walters Falls, Hoggs Falls,Cataract Falls, Hilton Falls,Tiffany Falls, Upper Balls Falls and Louth Falls along the escarpment. Many of these waterfalls are reduced to trickles in mid or late summer.
The water that falls off the Niagara Escarpment by means of Eugenia Falls, Inglis Falls, Jones Falls, Indian Falls and Keefer Falls flows into Lake Huron. This means the water is destined to fall over the Niagara Escarpment a second time when it eventually empties into lake Ontario by means of Niagara Falls.


For those who live close to one of the poles, snow and ice sculptures are serious art forms. Whether it’s a massive ice castle or a fully functional ice piano, the sky’s the limit for what these sculptors can create.
There are contests and festivals around the world dedicated to this skill, from the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China, to the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Ottawa’s Winterlude and British Columbia Snow Sculpture Championships in Vernon, B.C are also featured.
Here are 15 wintry creations that will give your backyard snowman a serious complex. (Text: Caitlin Leary)



Take a water tour with us through your home, yard, diet, and transportation and consumer choices! Then, pledge to cut your water footprint and help return more water to rivers, lakes, wetlands, underground aquifers, and freshwater species.

Ready for the challenge? Let’s get started…


Be water wise this winter, use only the salt needed to make you walkways around your home safe. Remember that salt does not just disappear but will end up in the rivers, lakes or aquifers.


13 Animals of the Artic: Life in the tundra

Most of us will never visit the Arctic Circle — and the residents of this northernmost region are perfectly happy with that. We’re not talking about Eskimos; we’re talking about the animals that call the Arctic home. Though the subzero temperatures and rugged boreal forests may seem bleak and unforgiving, many species thrive in the frigid tundra of the Arctic Circle.
Some of these animals you will have seen before, like the polar bear or the snowy owl (pictured), while others are more exotic, like the “unicorn of the sea” or the Canada lynx. Learn more about these 13 animal representatives of the chilly Arctic Circle. (Text: Caroline Inge)


By Lester R. Brown
The pace of solar energy development is accelerating as the installation of rooftop solar water heaters takes off. Unlike solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert solar radiation into electricity, these “solar thermal collectors” use the sun’s energy to heat water, space, or both.
China had an estimated 168 million square meters (1.8 billion square feet) of rooftop solar thermal collectors installed by the end of 2010 — nearly two thirds of the world total. This is equivalent to 118,000 thermal megawatts of capacity, enough to supply 112 million Chinese households with hot water. With some 5,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity. For as little as $200, villagers can install a rooftop solar collector and take their first hot shower. This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing’s goal is to reach 300 million square meters of rooftop solar water heating capacity across the country by 2020, a goal it is likely to exceed.
Other developing countries such as India and Brazil may also soon see millions of households turning to this inexpensive water heating technology. Once the initial installment cost of rooftop solar water heaters is paid back, the hot water is essentially free.
In Europe, where energy costs are relatively high, rooftop solar water heaters are also spreading fast. In Austria, 15 percent of all households now rely on them for hot water. Germany is also forging ahead. Some 2 million Germans are now living in homes with rooftop solar systems. Roughly 30 percent of the installed solar thermal capacity in these two countries consists of “solar combi-systems” that are engineered to heat both water and space.
The U.S. rooftop solar water heating industry has historically concentrated on a niche market — selling and marketing more than 9 million square meters of solar water heaters for swimming pools between 1995 and 2005. Given this base, the industry was poised to mass-market residential solar water and space heating systems when federal tax credits were introduced in 2006. Led by Hawaii, California, and Florida, annual U.S. installations of these systems have more than tripled since 2005.
Despite the recent growth in U.S. installations, the country ranks 36th in installed capacity relative to its population, with just 0.01 square meters installed per person. Cyprus, on the other hand, currently leads the world in solar water heater area on a per capita basis, with 0.79 square meters per person. Israel ranks second with 0.56 square meters per person…
Solar water and space heaters in Europe and China have a strong economic appeal, often paying for themselves from electricity savings in less than 10 years. With the cost of rooftop heating systems declining and more countries implementing favorable policies, the shift from fossil fuels to solar energy for heating water and space will likely accelerate.
For more data and information on the rapid growth of renewable energy worldwide, see World on the Edge by Lester R. Brown at


Diver recently dared to swim alongside the Greenland shark, a scavenger that lives farther north than any other shark species and can grow as large as a great white. By Bryan NelsonWed, Dec

This predator has been found with caribou in its stomach, probably the result of scavenging… Imagine a shark that grows as large as a great white, has toxic, urea-soaked flesh, and dines on an assortment of marine mammals. No, this isn’t the latest Hollywood attempt to ramp up the “Jaws” franchise. Meet the Greenland shark — perhaps one of the world’s least known apex marine predators.

Daredevil diver Doug Perrine recently had the audacity to get up close and personal with one of these elusive creatures, according to the Daily Mail. Though the water was murky and cold, Perrine took solace in the fact that these sharks are not known to attack humans — but they aren’t known for good eyesight, either. “The sharks were able to satisfy their curiosity about me by approaching to the limit of visibility at about six meters distance,” Perrine told the Daily Mail. “The sharks are known to prey on large seals, but I never felt threatened.” “They have an almost goofy, comical appearance,” he added, referring to the animal’s toothy grin – an expression that seems etched in stone upon their faces.

The Greenland shark is native to the waters of the north Atlantic Ocean, living farther north than any other shark species. Perhaps the lack of competition is what drives them to feast on such a vast array of Arctic prey, a menu which typically includes fish and marine mammals, but because this creature is primarily a scavenger, some specimens have been found with horse and reindeer in their stomachs.

One of the shark’s other unusual attributes includes its poisonous, urea-laced flesh, which makes the animal hazardous to eat. Interestingly, the toxic content of its flesh comes not from the urea, but rather from the presence of trimethylamine oxide, a toxin that can produce symptoms similar to drunkenness when consumed. Even so, local Inuits have learned to make the flesh palatable by boiling it or fermenting it for several months. The shark is also known to live for as long as 200 years. The oldest individuals are the ones known to reach massive sizes (possibly as long as 24 feet), rivaling the great white shark. Check out a video below for a (safe) glimpse of what it’s like to swim with one of these eerie Arctic predators:


Efficient water use can have major environmental, public health, and economic benefits by helping to improve water quality, maintain aquatic ecosystems, and protect drinking water resources. By using water more efficiently and by purchasing more water efficient products, we can also help mitigate the effects of drought. Efficiency measures can also save the homeowner money on their water and energy bills. This list of measures is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a starting point.

Bathroom—where over half of all water use inside a house takes place:

•Do not let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.

•Take short showers instead of tub baths. Turn off the water while soaping or shampooing.

•If you must use a tub, close the drain before turning on the water and fill the tub only half full. Bathe            small children together.

•Never use your toilet as a waste basket.

Kitchen and Laundry—simple practices that save a lot of water:

•Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.

•Wash fruits and vegetables in a basin. Use a vegetable brush.

•Do not use water to defrost frozen foods; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

•Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading into the dishwasher; wash only full loads.

•Add food wastes to your compost pile instead of using the garbage disposal.

•Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.

Equipment—homes with high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances save about 30% of indoor water use and yield substantial savings on water, sewer, and energy bills:

•Install low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads.

•Consider purchasing a high efficiency washing machine which can save over 50% in laundry water and energy use.

•Repair all leaks. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day. To detect leaks in the toilet, add food coloring to the tank water. If the colored water appears in the bowl, the toilet is leaking. Toilet repair advice is available on <> .

Landscape Irrigation—depending on climate, up to 75 percent of a home’s total water use during the growing season is for outdoor purposes (During drought conditions outdoor watering restrictions may be imposed, so some of the following tips will not apply.):

•Detect and repair all leaks in irrigation system.

•Use properly treated wastewater for irrigation where available.

•Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best). Do not water on windy days.

•Water trees and shrubs, which have deep root systems, longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants that require smaller amounts of water more often. Check with the local extension service for advice on watering needs in your area.

•Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street or sidewalk.

•Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation systems for trees and shrubs.

•Install moisture sensors on sprinkler systems.

•Use mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation from the soil surface and cut down on weed growth.

•Remove thatch and aerate turf to encourage movement of water to the root zone.

•Raise your lawn mower cutting height – longer grass blades help shade each other, reduce evaporation, and inhibit weed growth.

•Minimize or eliminate fertilizing, which promotes new growth needing additional watering.

•When outdoor use of city or well water is restricted during a drought, use the water from the air conditioning condenser, dehumidifier, bath, or sink on plants or the garden. Don’t use water that contains bleach, automatic-dishwashing detergent or fabric softener.

Other Outdoor Uses:

•Sweep driveways, sidewalks and steps rather than hosing off.

•Wash the car with water from a bucket, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.

•When using a hose, control the flow with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

•Avoid purchasing recreational water toys which require a constant stream of water.

•Consider purchasing a new water-saving swimming pool filter.

•Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation when pool is not being used.

•Do not install or use ornamental water features unless they recycle the water. Use signs to show the public that water is recycled. Do not operate during a drought



Water is needed to grow not only everything we eat but also to produce almost all the products we use every day. This water is either supplied by nature as precipitation and/or added by man during the growing/production process. You can’t tell by the size of a product or the appearance of a food how much water was actually used to produce the item.
Bread, 1 slice, about 1 ounce:
Correct answer: 10 gallons
10 gallons is a good global average. Producing wheat takes about 150 gallons per pound.
Chicken, 1 pound of meat:
Correct answer: 500 gallons
Water is not only needed for the chicken to drink and to maintain the “chicken house” but also to grow the grains that the chicken eats.
Coffee, 1 cup:
Correct answer: 35 gallons
The world population requires about 120 billion cubic metres of water per year in order to be able to drink coffee. This is equivalent to 1.5 times the annual Rhine runoff and constitutes 2 % of the global water use for crop production.
Corn, 1 pound:
Correct answer: 110 gallons
Maize (corn) consumes about 550 billion cubic meters of water annually, which is 8 % of the global water use for crop production.
Eggs, 1 egg:
Correct answer: 400 gallons
Most of the water is required for feeding the chickens.
Correct answer: 4,000-18,000 gallons
Estimates vary a lot due to different conditions of raising cows and to the extent of the production chain of water that is used. It takes a lot of water to grow grain, forage, and roughage to feed a cow, as well as water to drink and to service the cow.
Correct answer: 13 gallons
One glass of orange juice (200 ml) takes about 45 gallons litres of water, which includes growing the orange, of course.
Correct answer: 3 gallons
This number has a lot of variation and depends on the source of the wood. Particularly, forest evapotranspiration and wood yield vary from forest to forest. The number will likely fall in a range of 1/2 gallon and 8 gallons per sheet (A4 size).
Correct answer: 100 gallons
One cotton shirt:
Correct answer: 700 gallons
Of this total water volume, 45% is irrigation water consumed (evaporated) by the cotton plant; 41% is rainwater evaporated from the cotton field during the growing period; and 14% is water required to dilute the wastewater flows that result from the use of fertilisers in the field and the use of chemicals in the textile industry.
Correct answer: 30 gallons
Correct answer: 110-250 gallons
Wheat consumes about 790 billion cubic meters of water annually, which constitutes 12 % of the global water use for crop production.
Note: These numbers are only estimates. It is not only very difficult to come up with accurate water-use numbers but the large variety of food-growing and production techniques used worldwide means that a the amount of water needed can vary by a huge amount. Also (yes, another “consideration”) is how deep you go in the chain of production to estimate water use. For beef, some estimates consider water for cattle drink and to maintain the animals, while other sources may consider the water needed to grow the food that the cow eats. So, the data is meant to give you a general idea and please note the limitations and uncertainties in coming up with these estimates.


Who May Be at Risk?
•Do you live in a home built before 1960?
•Was the plumbing in your home installed before 1990?
•Do you live near an industry (such as a lead-battery recycling factory) where lead has been used?

Approximately one out of four Canadian dwellings was built prior to 1960. It is best to assume that a dwelling constructed before 1960 contains leaded paint. If you answered “yes”, or “I don’t know”, to any of the above questions, your family may be at risk of lead exposure. While not all older homes pose lead hazards, some do, and there are precautionary measures that you need to be aware of as a homeowner or tenant. Read on to learn more.

Wasn’t Lead Phased Out of Paint and Other Products?
Yes. Beginning in the mid-1970s the federal government began reducing the amount of lead legally allowed in paint. In the mid-1980s canners voluntarily stopped using lead solder for canned goods. In December 1990, leaded gasoline was banned for most applications. These protective measures have aided in reducing average blood lead levels of Canadian children over the past two decades; however, there are still some children in Canada who remain at risk of lead exposure.

Residential Sources of Lead

The three main sources of lead exposure in housing come from
•paint/paint dust

Water: In most of Canada, the concentration of lead in natural water supplies is very low. However, significant levels of lead in drinking water can result from the use of lead solder in plumbing, lead service connections that link the house to the main water supply, or lead pipes in the home. Check with your province’s drinking water regulator to confirm the regulations or guidelines for lead in drinking water which apply to you. All jurisdictions base their requirements on the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, which specify that the lead level in drinking water drawn from a tap allowed to run until the water gets cold must be below 10 parts per billion. Lead was, at one time, the choice material for use in service connectors, the pipe that brings household water from the city or town water main. It was also commonly employed in “well-built” homes prior to 1920 and 50 per cent lead solder was used to join household plumbing until the late 1980s. Learn about testing your water for lead.

Why Is Lead so Dangerous?

Lead is what is known as a neurotoxicant or a brain poison. Even in very small amounts, lead can harm the developing brain and nervous system of fetuses and young children, which can lead to behavioural and learning difficulties. Lead can also interfere with the way that hemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of blood) is produced. Lead can disturb processes essential to vitamin D and calcium metabolism. Chronic, or long-term lead exposure, can lead to high blood pressure and peripheral vascular disease. It is generally agreed that there is no safe level of lead exposure, although risk of suffering adverse health effects from lead exposure will decline as exposure declines.

Testing Your Home for Lead
While not all older homes contain leaded paint, assume your house does until you have had a laboratory analysis of your paint or paint dust. While lead paint usually does not pose a problem if it is intact, it does become a hazard once it is disturbed. Here are the various methods for determining if your house contains lead hazards.

Testing Drinking Water for Lead
If your house was built prior to 1990, there is the possibility for elevated lead levels in your water due to leaded pipes or leaded solder. If it was built prior to 1960, you may have leaded services. In these cases, testing is essential to determine the amount of lead in your drinking water. Any testing of your drinking water should be done by a laboratory which has been accredited by the Canadian Association for Environmental Analytical Laboratories (CAEAL), who are partnered with the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). Although lead test kits are available from stores for drinking water, they are not generally considered accurate or reliable.

Well water: Submersible pumps, especially the leaded-brass variety can release lead into drinking water. People dependent upon well water should have their water tested for lead levels.


What Do I Do If My Drinking Water Contains Lead?
The test results will let you know if you need to take steps to reduce the amount of lead in your water. If both the standing sample and the flushed sample are less than 10 micrograms lead per litre (ìg/L), your drinking water is fine. If the flushed sample is under 10 ìg/L, but the standing sample is over, then run your water until it is cold before using it for drinking or cooking. To avoid wasting water each time you want to drink, consider keeping a container of flushed water handy in the fridge. Other options are to flush your toilet or take a shower first thing in the morning before taking drinking water. If both flushed and standing samples are over 10 ìg/L, contact your City or Town’s public works department to investigate the problem.

Some municipalities provide free water testing for lead.
If the problem turns out to be lead service connectors or lead from your house plumbing, you need to look at replacement of these systems. This can be costly. A good interim measure is to either purchase bottled water or a filter that is effective for reducing lead in water. Make sure any product you buy is certified as meeting the NSF International standard for reducing lead by a certification organization accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.

Collecting a Drinking Water Sample
In most cases, water that is sampled for metals is taken directly from the tap (usually the kitchen tap). Generally, the homeowner will be provided with appropriate sampling bottles and specific sampling instructions by the testing laboratory. In cases where these are not provided, you will need:
•two small, clean, clear plastic bottles with lids that fasten securely
•marking pen

When sampling for lead, take two samples:
1. An overnight, or standing sample, is a tap water sample taken usually first thing in the morning. This water has been sitting in the pipes overnight, or for at least six hours, and will give you a clearer picture of how much lead is accumulating in your pipes.
2. A flushed sample is water that has been let to run for approximately three minutes, until all water that has been resting in the household pipes has been flushed out. Flushed water will be cold because it is water coming from the water main (buried under the street). The time needed for flushing the lines depends upon the length of plumbing coming from the water main, the diameter of the plumbing itself, and how open the taps are during flushing.

What to Do:
1. Collect 250 ml or about one cup of water for each sample.
2. Keep samples separate; label them “flushed” and “unflushed.”
3. Refrigerate and store samples in a clean, clear plastic water bottle.
4. Fill out a laboratory form describing your samples and the date they were collected.
5. Send your samples to an accredited laboratory for analysis. To find a lab, search the Yellow Pages for “Laboratories – Analytical and Testing”

Interpreting the results
The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for lead are 10 micrograms lead per litre water (10 ìg/L) or 0.01 milligrams of lead per litre water (0.01 mg/L). If the laboratory tests indicate levels higher than this, you should take the steps listed above to reduce your exposure to the lead in your drinking water.

RainSoft Reverse Osmosis is the best way to remove lead from your water, city or well.