Sodium and chloride both combine to form sodium chloride or common salt also known as rock salt or table salt. When this salt dissolves in water the chloride and sodium separates and sodium and chloride ions are released.
Generally in domestic situations chloride comes from detergents, cleaning solutions and soaps, however, the bulk comes from industrial and commercial sectors. Water softeners also produce a great deal of chloride especially the self regenerating water softeners. Chloride is also present in the environment around us. Water contains small amounts of chloride as it is one of the most essential salts for organisms to thrive. A high concentration of chloride is however harmful for both plants and living organisms. Lakes, rivers, ponds and wells all have some amount of chloride in them.
A major part of the chloride that goes into the environment comes from water softeners that we use. Flushed out water from the water softeners contains high concentration of chloride which reaches the waste water treatment plants through the sewer system. However, waste water treatment plants can only remove solid waste, human waste, organic waste, sand and grit. The chloride that is dissolved in water cannot be removed or biologically degraded and hence all this ultimately ends up in rivers from where it travels to the creeks and oceans.
It is not that there is no technology to remove chloride from water, but it is so expensive and involves a process called as micro filtration and reverse osmosis. This would significantly increase the cost of water treatment. There is one view that promotes the use of potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride but that too contains chloride.
You as an individual can do a lot to reduce the amount of chloride that is released in our environment. The first thing that you should do when you bring home a water softener is to check the water softener to see what the factory setting are, most manufacturers keep the setting at 30 grains. Based on the hardness of water in your area you should re-calibrate the setting so that it matches your requirements.
Another thing that you can do is keep the kitchen cold water unsoftened as it tastes better than softened water. One more step towards reducing the chloride in the environment is by increasing the time interval for the regeneration. If you set the timer to once in two days it will significantly reduce the amount of chloride in the environment.
However, the best step would be to buy a water softener that has a sensor. The sensor will sense when the regeneration mechanism will have to kick in and will not unnecessarily regenerate and create a backwash containing chloride. These types of water softeners are a bit expensive but they eventually pay for themselves as your salt consumption is significantly reduced.
These are some of the steps you can take to avoid chloride from water softeners ruin the environment around you.