Hard Water - Defining and Treatment

Most people think water is just plain old H2O and is the same regardless of where it comes from – whether from a bottle, tap or well. The truth is water quality varies widely throughout the world and this variation can have a significant impact on the performance and longevity of your ionizer. The variation in water depends on many factors. There are two basic causes of variation – natural environmental factors and contaminants caused by man.

Contaminants are usually man-made, but not in all cases, as there are also naturally occurring contaminants. A main influence on the type and concentration of contaminants is how close the water is to population centers, industry, livestock and/or agricultural operations etc.

Natural variations in water quality are due mainly to the water supply source. Some examples of common water sources are aquifers, rivers, reservoirs, run-off, wells, and springs. These variations in source contribute to the difference of the mineral content in water and if extreme enough will affect how your ionizer performs.

The Scaling Effect of Hard Water

Flex hose without scaleThe variability in mineral content is described as “hard” or “soft” waters. Hard water has a high concentration of minerals. Soft water is low in mineral content.

If you live in a hard water area, perhaps you have noticed mineral deposits on your cooking dishes, or rings of insoluble soap scum in your bathtub. These are not necessarily signs of poor housekeeping, but are rather signs of hard water. Hard water is water that contains high levels of calcium, iron or magnesium mineral ions. These minerals do not pose any health threat, unless in very high amounts, but they can engage in reactions that leave insoluble mineral deposits.

Flex hose with scaleHard water mineral deposits or “scaling”, is the precipitation of minerals which form lime scale. Scale can clog pipes and can decrease the life of virtually all appliances in the home, especially those that use hot water. It can do the same thing to your ionizer by decreasing performance and longevity caused by the build up of scale on the internal tubing. Clogged tubing leads to decreased water flow.

Hard and Soft Water and Ionizer Performance

An ionizer requires mineral content to operate. It is the minerals which carry the electrical charge that produces the alterations found in ionized water. Water that has little or no minerals, such as reverse osmosis or distilled water, has no pathway for the electrolysis or “ionization” to occur. It is important to note that all water found in nature has dissolved mineral content, so these types of “pure” water are a man-made phenomenon. Our bodies are made to drink water with minerals, not pure, mineral free, bottled water. Calcium, potassium and magnesium minerals in natural water are called the “essential alkalizing minerals” as they are essential to our health.

The more mineral content your water has, the more easily your ionizer will alter the water and the better performance measurements you see. The less the mineral content, the weaker the performance you will see. In simple terms an ionizer will perform better with mineral rich or hard water and not as well with softer water, or water low in mineral content. Ionizers are designed to perform optimally within certain water quality parameters; too many minerals may damage any ionizer, too few you may experience decreased performance. That being said, all AlkaViva ionizers will produce an ideal range of healthy drinking water, unless used with extremely poor quality water.

Hard Water in the US

According to the United States Geological Survey, 85% of US homes have some level of hardness in the water. In most areas the level of hardness is acceptable for ionizers. However, be aware that there are isolated pockets in Arizona, Southern California, Texas, Utah, New Mexico and the mid west and in well water sources all over the US that have extreme hard water, which can cause ionizer malfunction and/or long term damage. Please see the “Water Quality Requirements” section below for specifics.

The softest water occurs in parts of New England, South Atlantic-Gulf, Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii regions. It is important to note that these are generalities; you can find well water sources in soft water areas that have very hard water and conversely, you can find soft water in hard water areas.

Water Quality Requirements

Source water in most areas of North America measures somewhere between the two extremes specified below, thus allowing for good ionizer performance and longevity. In cases of extreme water quality, contact your AlkaViva Associate first to inquire about possible solutions. If there is not an easy solution, AlkaViva Technical Support will always work with you to determine a course of action.

Extreme Hardness

AlkaViva does not recommend using an ionizer without pretreatment of water that has one or more of the following measurements:

  • Hardness (or Calcium Carbonate) over 150ppm (8.5 grains)
  • Iron over .3ppm
  • TDS below 40ppm or over 600ppm
  • Calcium above 50ppm

Note: some reports will show “ppm” some will show “mg/l” – they are the same. Knowingly operating your ionizer above these levels may void your warranty and/or decrease your ionizer’s performance.
In no event shall AlkaViva or its dealers be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental or special consequential damages to property whatsoever, arising from use of its products with improperly treated or untreated hard water.

Pre- treatment options are:


AlkaViva does not recommend using an ionizer downstream (or after) a sodium or potassium based ion-exchange water softener. If you have a sodium or potassium ion-exchange softener, you will need to do one of the following:

  • Bypass the system (if the source water meets the above Water Quality criteria)
  • Change the plumbing connectors and install the softener on the hot water only
  • Install a Reverse Osmosis unit and Remineralization Cartridge

Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Distillers

Ionizers will not work downstream (or after) a RO or distiller. Many homes with an ion-exchange softening system will have an RO system. These systems remove virtually all the mineral content and leave the water with no conductivity. If you have an RO or distiller, you will need to do one of the following:

  • Bypass the system (if the source water meets the above Water Quality criteria)
  • Install a Remineralization Cartridge after the RO system

Extreme Softness

‘Soft’ water is very low in mineral and dissolved solid content which gives water its conductivity. Such water would have the following measurements:

  • TDS below 40ppm

In areas with extremely soft water (or if using a rainwater catchment system), it may not be possible to achieve optimal performance of your Ion Ways system. In this situation, a Remineralization Cartridge is recommended. AlkaViva has incorporated a proprietary blend of organic and inorganic minerals into its Remineralizer.

Well Water

  • In addition to measurements of water quality for ionization performance and longevity, health safety related issues are also important considerations when using well water. Well water tests can help to determine water quality; please refer to “The Well Water Memorandum” in your AlkaViva back office.
  • Many states require a well water test report in the closing documents of a home sale. Many local governmental Health Agencies offer free testing of well water. We recommend contacting them first.
    AlkaViva offers at a discounted price a Professional Water Test done in a certified laboratory. More details here


Many municipal water systems have started using chloramines, rather than chlorine, in the water treatment process. The UltraWater Filtration System, featuring a unique combination of media specifically designed for ultimate chlorine and chloramines filtration, is the best counter top filtration system on the market.

Important Notes

  • Please contact your AlkaViva Associate if your water falls into any one of the above categories. If your situation requires additional technical assistance, AlkaViva Technical Support will work with you to find a solution.
  • If your water is within 10% of two or more of the Extreme Hardness categories, you could possibly experience performance issues with your ionizer. You may require pretreatment. Please contact Technical Support for guidance.
  • If you are uncertain of the water quality in your area, please contact your local water supplier and request the specific Water Quality information above. The appropriate phone number will be on your water bill. If using well water, contact your county or state health dept to inquire about water testing services.