CALLING ALL science people, help with water

Hello all

I’ve been looking into what is in my water. I have a whole house water filter and softener. The hose bib also runs through this filter. I know the pH is high.

I’m having trouble determining what hardness or amount of salinity in the water. For filtered water the TDS seems very high to me so I got a salinity tester to see how much of the dissolved solids were salt.

I don’t have any build up on my pots or appliances. So, I’m a bit confused. Can someone please help explain this and what I can do to correct my water to best suit my bonsai?

Tap water (filtered):
TDS - 480ppm
Salinity - 535ppm
pH - 7.73

RO (not practical for watering though)
TDS - 140 ppm
Salinity - 59ppm
pH - 10.20

Other photos to show unit and no build up :woman_shrugging:t3:

Thanks everyone


@SoCalNative, sorry, I cannot assist with your water question, however, curious — am I correct in that your asking in relationship to photo and brown leaf tips? Is that a Contorted Cherry/Dwarf contorted Cherry??? I have both and have had the same issue from mid-summer on with both trees the past 2 years. I’ve prophylactic sprayed all my trees with bioadvanced 3-1 thinking it may be a fungus of some sort. I’m in Chicago and zone 5b. Good luck and curious to see other feedback…

A water softener normally replaces calcium and magnesium salts (most often carbonates) with sodium salts (often NaCl). As a result the TDS would stay about the same or perhaps even increase since the sodium ion has a +1 charge while calcium and magnesium are normally both +2. Too much Ca and Mg carbonate will leave lime deposits on pots, glassware, etc. which is why folks use softened water (it is also more difficult to use for washing since it ties up the soap/detergent). Too much NaCl in the water will impede plant growth and is why invading armies use to “salt the fields” so that they could not be farmed.

I believe it is generally recommended to not use softened water for your plants due to the above. My water is moderately hard (180 ppm TDS) and high pH of 8. I use acid injection to bring the pH down into the 6.5 range. I use phosphoric acid since the trees need phosphate, but it can tie up the iron if used in too high a concentration. Others have recommended using acetic acid (vinegar) to avoid the iron issue and having to first dilute the strong phosphoric acid to about the same pH as vinegar.

No. The tree leaves in the photo are my Chinese elm changing for winter. I was trying to show the pot that doesn’t have stain/residue

Do you drink your TAP water? In your area, its probably Pure Colorado Rocky Mountain Spring water… Piped in 800 miles for your enjoyment! Your water district is doing a fine job…:roll_eyes:. Do they have a website? Download water specs and look it them, especially TDS and metals …
Is the first photo a salt based water softener? Your brine tank is out of sight, right? Are the filtered water tests results from water before the softener? I would bet that would be lower in salinity…One thought, could you possibly tap into the water system BEFORE the water softener, for your bonsai?
Your water LOOKS fine for bonsai. (Except for possibly the salt, it is slightly high…) Well within my happy range.The pH adjustment is only VERY minor. Personally, I wouldnt bother… If you think you need to adjust it, contact a pot grow supply company. They can set you up with a easy peasy SMALL injector pH adjuster setup, and acid solutions. Put it into your system after the bib valve, just befor dispensing.
Marty’s advice above…
(Just before your liquid fertilizer and Cal/mag injector setup… :persevere:)
I would not use UNTREATED RO or distilled water for anything except lab work. (OK, in steam irons…)They are not very safe for drinking… Bottled water has salts put back in for your safety. (Experience, from years distilling water on Navy ships, and making RO for lab use.) If you do not add back Ca, Mg, K, and some NaCl (all of which you and your plants need…) you get digestion problems (I never could spell diarrhea…) Epsome salts would suffice for bonsai watering. Mixed to about 100 to 200 ppm range; adjusted to pH 6 5 ish. Hand water…Unless you have hundreds of bonsai…
In the first photo, I see your piping is copper. I assume this is not part of your RO system. RO water scavanges ANY ion it can, from any source it has. Metals (and your gut)… It will crazy corrode anything but Nalgene plastic. That would NOT account fot its crazy high pH though.
Your RO sample results is 10 times too high in TDS. It can NOT be pH 10. At worst case, it can ONLY be the same as your tap water source, 7.7… Are you using a calibrated pH meter? Could you have mistaken your pH 10 buffer for your RO sample?
Lab quality pH meters usually come with pH 4, 7, and 10 buffers. That would acount for the high TDS and salinity, too. Maybe? Rinse everything 3x in distilled water, and repeat test… (pH of distilled water should be about 6.8 range, too.)
Keep the probe wet in distilled water when storing!
Oh ya, remeber to change your filter more often, 2x per year… And, Ive never been a big fan of softened water… too much salt…
Bonsai is hard; but, at least its not rocket science! Unless you do both, and mix up the two.
I try my best not to blough anything up.:joy:
All the above is just my opinion… :hugs:
Good luck. HOPE this helps…
Bonsai On!

@KurtP and @MartyWeiser Many thanks for the time you put in to lay this out. It will take a couple times reading over to figure out what will work.

Marty, you made what my softer does, seem so simple! I thought it was much more complicate.

Kurt, I do drink my tap water, and I didn’t think to check their website.
The first photo is the softer, the brine tank is to the back of the garage. I wish I could tap into the unsoftened tap, but I’m hoping to maybe use these readings to get a new whole house filter with no salt.

The water tests are after the softener. ALL water comes through the softener. At this time, there isn’t a way to access unsoftened water. As for the RO, everything that touches that is plastics. It makes me feel better that the reading of 10 would be wrong. We only use it for coffee really. I’ll try this testing again and maybe recalibrate and try again.

Thank you! :love_you_gesture: