Like many other communities, Waukesha must meet federal chloride standards for wastewater. Softener salt is the largest source of chlorides in the wastewater discharges by the Clean Water Plant. Chlorides are harmful to fish and other aquatic life in rivers and other bodies of water.
We need to reduce chloride levels or else wastewater costs for all users will go up significantly. There is no cost-effective way to remove softener salt at the Clean Water Plant, so we need to reduce the level of use at homes and businesses.
If you choose to continue using your water softener after the transition to 100% Lake Michigan water, you must have it optimized. That means having an approved optimizer adjust settings for hardness, salt dosage and reserve capacity. Optimizing your softener, including adjusting for the hardness level of Lake Michigan water, can achieve as much as 80% of the salt reduction that would be realized by removing your softener. That should save you money without a noticeable change in water quality.
For most users, the deadline for optimizing their softeners will be Jan. 1, 2025, and no action is required at this time. However, high-volume water users (more than 80,000 gallons per year) must optimize by Sept. 1, 2023, or as soon as can be scheduled, in order for us to demonstrate progress on meeting the chloride standards. High-volume users have already received letters from the city explaining the requirements. If the city does not show progress on meeting the standard, it may be forced into other options, including eliminating the choice on whether or not to keep your water softener.
If your softener is a time-clock unit, it must still be optimized. If you wish to continue softening after the switch to Lake Michigan water, we encourage you to replace your time-clock softener because it uses much more salt than modern softeners.
You can learn more about the water softener optimization program and find a list of approved optimizers at the city’s website here. Or call the Waukesha Clean Water Plant at (262) 524-3628 for additional information.