Have you ever wondered if you have hard or soft water? Perhaps you’ve heard or been a part of a conversation regarding water being hard or soft and wondered what exactly that means. You may have also noticed scaling and deposits left by hard water on the interior or exterior of plumbing and pipes. Maybe this didn’t bother you because, after all, water is water, isn’t it? But, consider this — what if the water quality that affects your drinking and shower water also makes a difference in the chemistry of what you are spraying on your crops?
Water in its natural form doesn’t contain any minerals and is considered “soft.” However, when it contains a high concentration of dissolved minerals, especially calcium (carbonate) and magnesium, it becomes “hard.” Water often picks up these minerals when passing through materials such as limestone. Calcium and magnesium also increase the pH of the water, with magnesium having twice as much impact as calcium.
Water from wells and dug-outs, often used in crop spraying and in many mixes on the farm, is hard water. Even water from cities and municipalities is not as soft as you may think.
According to the Water Quality Association, water hardness is listed in grains per gallon (gpg) or in parts of million (ppm) and interpreted as follows:
Soft: 0 – 1 grains per gallon (gpg); 0 parts per million (ppm)
Slightly Hard: 1.1 – 3.5 gpg; 10 – 60 ppm
Moderately Hard: 3.6 – 7 gpg; 60 – 145 ppm
Hard: 7.1 – 10.5 gpg; 145 – 240 ppm
Very Hard: Over 10.5 gpg; Over 240 ppm
The map below shows various areas and their water hardness based on the above interpretation guidelines. The table below shows each location and the corresponding recorded average for water hardness. These figures don’t replace an actual water hardness test but should serve as a reference.