Is hard water better for you than soft water?
WHEN rainwater falls from the sky and lands on the ground it soaks into the soil and seeps downwards pulled by gravity. As it descends, minerals in the soil dissolve in it in the same way that sugar dissolves in tea or salt dissolves in seawater. The descending water, with its content of dissolved minerals, may emerge in a spring or well and be used for drinking.
Since hard water is water with a high mineral content and soft water is the opposite, a spectrum or a hardness scale can easily be drawn up ranging from a very high mineral content to a very low one.
Hard water is good for drinking as the minerals in it give it flavour. The minerals are also good as building materials for our bodies, so it has health benefits; calcium to grow bone is an often-quoted example. Soft water is bland, tasteless and soft and has fewer health benefits.
However, hard water has a downside to it. If you hold a glass of it up to the light it appears perfectly clear and pure. The dissolved minerals are not visible to our eyes. One of these dissolved minerals is calcium bicarbonate. When hard water is heated the soluble calcium bicarbonate in it decomposes to form calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is insoluble, so it comes out of the water and is deposited as limescale that can be seen in the bottom of a glass.
Limescale builds up over time destroying the elements in electric kettles and irons, clogging pipes, lowering the efficiency of electric water heaters, raising the costs of heating the water, and reducing the life of equipment.
So, while hard water is good for drinking it is bad for electrical appliances in homes and businesses. To address these tow conflicting issues, many people install a water softener to protect electrical appliances and buy bottled water for drinking.
While bottled water is often marketed as being ‘natural’ and ‘pure’ it is, of course, proessed as it is subject to microbiological testing and has to meet strict hygiene standards to protect the public from pollution from septic tanks and other sources.
As with very many other kinds of food packaging, issues have also been raised regarding micro-plastic contamination from the walls of the plastic containers that the water comes packaged in.