Many public water supply schemes in County Kilkenny supply “hard water”. Normally this means the water comes from groundwater wells, but can come from rivers, and contains dissolved calcium or lime and magnesium from the limestone bedrock. The dissolved minerals can sometimes make the water appear cloudy when heated.
Groundwater wells are being used more and more by Local Authorities to supply water as the water produced is usually of better quality and requires less treatment than river water. This trend will continue into the future and additional schemes are likely to be supplied from groundwater.
It is perfectly safe for everyone to drinkand is good for you - drinking hard water will increase intake of essential minerals – calcium and magnesium and may have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and reduce risk of high blood pressure. However, when hard water is heated calcium deposits or ‘lime scale’ might form. This can affect household appliances such as kettles, dishwashers, washing machines and some heating systems.
What can I do?
Try to only boil only what you need and don’t leave the surplus boiled water lying in the kettle. Kettles can be descaled by half filling with half water / half vinegar, leaving overnight, rinsing, refill and boil water, then discard water and kettle is ready for use.
A wide range of products are commercially available to prevent the deposition of lime scale during the heating of water in washing machines. Varying the dosage of washing powder may also work.
Indirect heating systems where water is re-circulated are generally not affected by limescale. Direct heating systems, where fresh water replaces heated boiler water, may experience some blockage of pipes and reduced boiler efficiency. Symptoms of this would be rattling in the pipes when the water is heated, and gradually longer heating times. Consult a plumber if such problems are suspected.
Dishwashers generally have built-in water softeners. Householders should ensure these are set according to manufacturer’s instructions.
If limescale has built up – soak the shower head in half vinegar / half water solution for three hours or overnight to remove the limescale.
Soften the entire water supply?
Chemically softened water is not suitable for everyone to drink - particularly for infants and other risk categories. For that reason it is recommended that entire mains water supplies are not softened, so Kilkenny County Council does not have this option.
The “soft” option
Even though the hard water is perfectly safe to drink, meets all the required drinking water standards and is good for you, some people may choose to ‘soften’ their supply.
Hard water can be ‘softened’ by chemically removing calcium (by ion exchange) from the water and replacing it with sodium chloride or potassium chloride. Each individual household has the option of installing their own domestic water softeningunit.There are no grants or funding available from central Government or from Kilkenny County Council to assist with the installation of softening units, or the purchase of new appliances.
Softening units work by chemical, electric or magnetic processes to prevent scale deposition. The effectiveness of the units cannot be guaranteed, nor can Kilkenny County Council recommend any particular unit. Care in the design and installation of softening systems is essential, in order to prevent excessively high levels of chemicals in the softened water. For this reason, consideration could be given to softening only the water sent to the domestic hot water system and the cold water supply to the kitchen sink should be excluded from the softening process.
The water quality (including hardness) of all public water schemes in County Kilkenny is continuously monitored by Kilkenny County Council to ensure compliance with drinking water regulations and to ensure that a high quality product is consistently delivered to all our customers.
KilkennyCountyCouncil, Water Services Section,
County Hall, John St, Kilkenny.