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Why don’t water companies soften the water?

Most water companies don’t soften the water in their water supply. It’s not because they can’t, it’s because it’s not cost effective. Studies have shown that it’s more economical to soften water at the point of use, which is what a water softener does.

At the time of writing, the only supplier that softens water to some degree is SES Water who supply water in the Sutton and East Surrey area in the South East of England. The water is purified before it is safe to drink, and the quality is improved through a process it calls ‘softening’.

They add lime to the water in their large-scale softening tank at their main water treatment facility. The lime reacts with the bicarbonates that cause hardness and chalk is formed. As chalk is heavier than water it settles to the bottom of the large tank. The water remaining is softened water which is then moved onto the next treatment stage before it enters the water pipes that travel to water to our homes.

It’s a different process to a water softener and it doesn’t fully soften the water to the levels that a Harvey water softener does.

The need to soften water does vary across the country too. Water hardness levels depend on the type of land you live on and they can vary from season to season as a result of the amount of rainfall. Some areas have naturally soft water.

We tell you more about water hardness levels here and how it may vary depending on location and weather.

Across the UK, many people suffer from the effects of hard water. If you’re unsure whether you have hard water in your home, try our water quality test to find out how hard the water is in your area. Explore the hardness of the water in your area.