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Trout Gulch Mutual Water Mission Statement:

Trout Gulch Mutual Water (TGW), a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation, that is member owned and managed. TGW is dedicated to managing water, a precious resource, through production, storage, and distribution in the safest and most cost effective manner possible. Our Board of Directors shall assure good stewardship of company operations entrusted to them by its members and remain transparent with each and every action and activity undertaken. Decisions shall reflect integrity and fairness to all members served.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ron Duncan, Go Green: Is your dishwasher not doing its job?

Have you noticed in the past year or so that your dishwasher does not seem

to clean dishes as well as it did in the past? Have you seen an increase

in mineral deposits or a whitish film on glassware? Some folks have even

had issues with their dishwasher machine spray ports clogging or failing.

The reason might be due to a recent change in the formula for dishwasher


Starting last July 1, 16 states required manufacturers of dishwashing

detergents to significantly reduce the amount of phosphate in their

formulas. Although the phosphate ban applies only to 16 states California

is not one of those 16, most companies are reformulating their entire

detergent product lines to comply with the new laws. Much of Europe has

already banned phosphate in dishwashing detergents and Canada is not far


Phosphate Benefits and Issues

Phosphate has been a main ingredient in dishwashing detergents to help get

dishes clean and reduce spotting. With calcium-rich or "hard" water

prevalent in Santa Cruz County, phosphate was extra helpful because it

helps soften the water. Phosphates help hold the minerals, such as

calcium, in the water solution and do not allow them to be deposited on

the dishware.

However, this cheap but effective ingredient for a long time has been

known to have an environmental cost. Phosphate basically acts as a

nutrient for plant growth. When phosphate-rich septic or treated sewage

water enters a fresh water body, the plant growth can be significant and

the plants use up too much of the dissolved oxygen in the water -- leaving

an insufficient amount for fish and other aquatic life. This process is

known as "eutrophication." Have you ever driven by a lake or lagoon and

noticed that it is all green? That is eutrophication in action.


So what is a person to do if they are experiencing spotting, film residue

or reduced dishwasher performance? The first step is to find the detergent

that works best for you. In general, the packets and tablets have been

shown to perform better than the powder or liquid detergents.

An article from the Good Housekeeping website states the following brands

have customer approval: Seventh Generation Concentrated Packets, Method

Smarty Dish, and Sun & Earth Automatic Dishwasher Detergent. If you

can't find these at your favorite store, all three are available online.

The Appliance Service Center Inc. in Santa Cruz says Cascade Complete All

in 1 works very well. They also promote a product called Dishwasher Magic

which claims EPA approval that can be used a few times a year to help

periodically remove hard water build-up that accumulates over time in your

dishwasher. This should also improve washing performance.

Another solution is to install a water softener to reduce the hardness of

the water. This facilitates the action of the detergent. However, the

traditional water softener is tough on the environment.

There are several "green" water softeners on the market, but an evaluation

of which systems are effective has yet to be conducted. EPA WaterSense is

in the process of developing a certification process for "greener" water

softeners, but it will probably take at least a year before a list of

certified "green" water softeners is available.

Arlos Anderson, owner of Blue Lotus Water Technology, says he knows of one

"green" water softener called the nuvo H2O that is available now, works

well, and is cost-effective. Anderson has installed many of these systems

and says they precipitate out calcium as a very small particle. According

to Anderson, the systems are easy to install and require no drain or

electricity. Cartridges must be replaced annually. The nuvo H2O system

uses a citrus formulation no salt to prevent and remove existing hard

water build up.

Anderson said that with the passage of Assembly Bill 1366 -- legislation

that effectively bans salt using water softeners in portions of California

-- alternatives must be found.

Ron Duncan writes a monthly column for the Sentinel. He is a manager for

the Soquel Creek Water District, which offers free visits to homes and

businesses and suggests ways to save water.

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