Got Water Spots?

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Do you have hard water?

The hard water term comes from the phrase “hard to make a lather,” you can notice it in the shower.  It is a result of high mineral content.  Think about the water coming down the Colorado River, bouncing off all those rocks, picking up the minerals.

There may be another culprit if you have noticed recent changes in your dishwasher, and are finding spots on your glasses.  Mesa Consolidated Water District services parts of Newport Beach.  They had some temporary changes in the blend of their water supply, which also corresponded to some residents calling in to inquire about the observation of water spots.

A little Sherlock Homes investigation yielded an interesting finding.  Seventeen states have a ban on phosphates in washing products, so now all major brands have eliminated phosphates from their secret sauce of dishwashing detergent.  Phosphates have been the main cleaning agent in many detergents and household cleaners, as they break down grease and remove stains. They also keep glasses crystal clear in a hard-water wash.

But phosphates are difficult to remove in waste water, often wind up in rivers, lakes and oceans, and are thought to increase algae growth, which takes oxygen out of the water and supposedly suffocates other aquatic life.

If spots are an issue for you, you can add 1 cup of vinegar to the wash cycle, along with your dishwasher detergent.  You can also hot rod your dishwasher with an additive like a Jet Dry to improve results.

A whole house water softener will help with the hard water spots, but not the fingerprints, lip prints and baked on food elements.  Dishwashers are supposed to use less water than hand washing, so if people end up rewashing dishes, it reduces any environmental gains.

I also contacted Shane Burckle, water conservation coordinator for Newport Beach, and well-respected among fellow water buffaloes.  He has not seen a recent uptick in residents calling in to question the hardness of their water, which can also cause calcification on taps, shower heads and around refrigerator water dispensers.  However, the water is on the lower end of acceptable ranges.

He went on to talk with genuine pride about Newport’s response to voluntary reductions in water consumption.  With a voluntary request to reduce water consumption by 10 percent, Newport Beach has achieved an 8-9 percent reduction over the last five years.  His message has shifted from water conservation, which suggests a temporary time period, to one of water-use efficiency, a requirement that is here to stay.

The pride really shows as Burckle talked about Newport Beach as an active city, with vocal residents, who want to do the right thing.  With a little education to facilitate informed decisions, behavioral changes follow.  You can check the city’s website for many solutions and ideas – and look for their “Water Miser” workshop.

We could treat water in the distribution process, and make the water softer.  Unfortunately, the majority of residential water use is outside, on the landscaping.  Maybe someday, when we shift water consumption behaviors to reduce exterior water use, then it may make sense to treat the water en masse.

Newport Beach gets 62 percent of its water supply from the local groundwater basin, and the balance is imported by Metropolitan Water District, from two challenged sources.  The Colorado River is suffering from years of natural drought, and shifting flow patterns and snow packs.  The Sacramento Delta is challenged by a regulatory drought, as the environmentally sensitive Delta Smelt apparently has the better lawyers.

Reliable and cost effective imported water from the Delta could be affected significantly by an earthquake of much lower magnitude than that of Japan’s.  Levies built 100 years ago by farmers are not engineered.  Years of farming creates subsidence.  On a recent tour, I stood on farmland that was 30 feet below the levy.  It is not a matter of if, but when the levies will fail.

Councilmember Lindsey Daigle would give me a green noogie if I did not take the opportunity to talk water quality while on the subject.  Remember that making choices about what we allow into the storm drains, controlling irrigation run off and many other water-use efficiency behaviors will affect what is discharged into the Back Bay, harbor and ocean.

Water quality is joined at the hip to quality of life in Newport Beach.

What are you doing for Earth Day? [email protected]

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