Sunday, April 01, 2007

It’s A Good News, Bad News Kinda Thing

I read some really good news this week. The State of California, in their drive to lead the way on environmental issues, has passed into law a recommendation to the state’s Water Quality Control Boards to ban all saline discharge to groundwater or waste water.

What was that sound I just heard? A collective gasp from the Salt Is Great Amen Choir?

Yes, read all about it, right here:

The gist is that the State of California has enacted a recommendation that encourages their nine California Water Quality Control Boards to ban all discharges of saline to groundwater or waste water.

I know. I just said that in the first paragraph. But I thought it beared repeating. Because if you stop all discharge of salty water to groundwater, then you guys out there in California can’t blow your salty backwash down into the canyons any more. That would be saline discharge into groundwater. And if you’re backwash is hooked to the sewer, you can’t backwash it there, either. That would be saline discharge to waste water. In fact, you won’t be able to dump a salt pool anywhere. Ever. Because there’s no provision for it’s disposal. There’s now a rule, slated to go into effect next year, that says you can’t introduce saline discharge into groundwater or waste water.

I know. I keep saying it. NO SALINE DISCHARGE INTO GROUNDWATER OR WASTE WATER. I’m even giggling as I write it. It is so cool.

With the stroke of a single pen, with a one-sentence recommendation, the State of California Water Quality Control Board, part of CAL/EPA, has banned the use of salt water based chlorine generators. Unless, of course, you have a cartridge filter and you plan on drinking your pool the next time it needs replastering.

This, by the way is a different group than the Los Angeles County Sanitation District who enacted the Santa Clarita salt water softener ban and salt water swimming pool ban.

So, you see, that’s the second government agency in the State of California tasked with monitoring the state of the environment that is saying that salt in our waste water is a BAD THING.

On the one hand, you have government agencies who monitor water quality and see a growing problem with higher and higher levels of chloride in our rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and they’re recommending banning saline discharge to reverse that trend.

On the other hand, you have companies whose bottom line will be impacted by the prohibition on saline discharge, and they’re telling us to trust them, that they know best, and that we shouldn’t worry about saline discharge, that it’ll be okay. Gosh, just look at Australia. It is such a shining example of a country that’s been using salt in their pools and water softeners for over twenty years with no ill effects.

Is that true? I’ve always wondered if what we read in our trade publications about the situation in Australia is as rosy as they make it out to be. Or is it that in those interviews they’re only asking the Salt Peddlers in Australia how things are going. But that’s the great thing about Google and the internet. It gives you an opportunity to do an end-run on the sound bite folks and find out what the pointy-head guv guys are saying. Here’s what I found when I Googled “salinity of drinking water in Australia”.

“Australia has critical salinity and water quality problems which are receiving urgent attention.”

“Across Australia, 80 wetlands are already suffering the effects of salinity. The number is predicted to rise to 130 by the year 2050. The build-up of salts puts many species of plants and animals at risk, and will eventually reduce biodiversity in the affected regions. Drinking water supplies, particularly in South Australia and New South Wales, are also under threat from salinity. For example, Adelaide's drinking water is predicted to exceed World Health Organisation guidelines for salinity on two days out of five by the year 2020 if nothing is done to control salinity in the River Murray.”

“More than $130 million of agricultural production is lost annually from salinity. More than $6 million is spent every year on building maintenance related to salinity in South Australia. Salinity causes $9 million damage annually to roads and highways in south-west New South Wales. The area of salt affected land in Western Australia is increasing at a rate of one football field per hour.”
“Impacts from salinisation have been identified as one of Australia's most serious environmental issues. Accumulation of dissolved salts within the soil profile may lead to salination of adjacent freshwater ecosystems.”

These were all on the first page of results. I didn’t go digging ten pages back to find them. These are the ones that jump right out at you off the first page. It literally took me five minutes to find those references. Take note, too, that they’re all from government agencies, from the folks tasked with protecting, or at least salvaging, the environment.

Now, in all fairness, Australia didn’t get where they are today by people dumping their salt pools and discharging their salt water softeners. They got there through a mechanism of over-irrigation, which percolates a layer of salt already deep in the soil to the surface and raises the levels of the even deeper aquifers so that the salt in that higher strata contaminates the whole aquifer. But if that’s the situation, isn’t dumping a salt pool or discharging a salt water softener kinda like throwing gas on a fire?

Anyway, that’s the Good News. Help is on the way and if the recommendation is acted upon by the California Regional Water Quality Boards, then salt systems in California could be a thing of the past.

The Bad News is that this recommendation is about a year away from being enacted. That’s more than enough time for the Special Interests to get their lobbyists in there, pressing the flesh and doling out the dollars to see that single sentence amended out of existence. And it’s not just the salt/chlorine gobs who will be working to defeat it. It’s the whole Water Quality Industry (read salt based water softener peddlers) who will be gunning for it.

It’s just going to depend on the strength and influence of the pointy-head guv guys who did the hard work of monitoring the situation all these years to come to the conclusion that this was the answer. They’re the ones who got that sentence added in the first place. I assume it’s them, anyway. I’m not naive, though. I realize it could also be the Something Besides Salt To Soften Your Water folks. But what’s that old saying?

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend.

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