Help! Do I Need a Water Softener or a Water Filter?

Here in Flagstaff our water is sourced from Upper Lake Mary, springs in the Inner Basin of the Peaks, and from groundwater wells throughout the area.

Underground water is the most common source of water for municipal systems, and it is known to have a higher percentage of minerals compared to surface water. This higher level of mineral content contributes toward making our water hard. You know the effects – it creates scale build-up in faucets and appliances, hastens pipe corrosion, and is detrimental to your skin, hair, and clothing.

So, just soften it and we’re all good, right?!

Not so fast! It’s also important to consider the quality of the water that comes into your home. All of Flagstaff’s municipal water is treated – groundwater is disinfected with chlorine; surface water is treated at one of two treatment plants, using a combination of disinfection (with chlorine), filtration, and other processes. While these treatments provide tap water that meets consumptive standards, is it really the highest quality?

Well, what now?

Let’s take a look at both water softeners and water filtration. It’s not a straight comparison, though, as both target different water-related issues: water softeners focus on eradicating minerals from water, while water filtration systems address a much broader spectrum of water quality issues.

Traditional Water Softeners


Traditional water softeners are primarily designed to make hard water feel soft. These are considered chemical treatments as they use either salt (most common) or potassium as the primary chemical agent to modify the hardness of your water and remove some contaminants like manganese and metals (such as ferrous iron ions).

Hard water contains two main elements – calcium and magnesium. These two minerals cause the buildup of lime scale on surfaces and the inside of pipes.

A water softener relies on the chemical properties of sodium or potassium, along with ion-exchange resins, to facilitate the replacement of calcium and magnesium in your water with sodium or potassium. Softened water is then run through your home plumbing.

Great! That fixes the problem, right?

While it does soften your hard water, there are a few other points to consider.

Water Softeners do not improve water quality

Softening hard water may make it taste better but it doesn’t make it cleaner or safer to drink, cook, shower, or clean. In the long term, or for those with certain health issues, it is not healthy to drink due to the high salinity of the water. It is also commonly recommended to install an additional filtration system (like a reverse osmosis filter) at each faucet you intend to drink from in order to remove contaminants like chlorine. 

Water Softeners are not environmentally friendly

The water softening process creates a brine that damages the water supply, and is very expensive for municipal water treatment plants to treat. It is actually considered a pollutant when discharged into the environment, harming aquatic life and damaging agricultural crops.

Water Softeners are quite wasteful of water

There is a considerable amount of water wasted during the backwash cycle that cleans the resins of hard minerals when regenerating your softener. Compound that with the need to add a reverse osmosis filter to drink the softened water, which results in the equivalent of 2-3 “flushes” of extra water per day. Multiply that across millions of homes, and it adds up!

Water Filtration


Water filtration is a different ballgame all together. That clear glass of water you’re holding might not be as clean as you think. 

Water filters remove contamination from water, including chlorination, bacterial contamination, and metals such as iron, arsenic, or copper; industrial and pharmaceutical byproducts like pesticides or hormones; and, sediment and other organic trouble makers. Filters remove the chemicals that are harmful without disturbing the beneficial minerals our bodies need.

Pollutants are removed by passing the water through advanced filtration levels. These filters, or media beds, include processes like oxidation, catalytic conversion, micro-filtration, ion exchange, and adsorption. Several different types of media are used to treat everything from heavy chemicals to natural and manmade chemicals. The end result is water safe for drinking.


Chlorine is one of the most common treatments used by public water systems to disinfect water provided to your home. While it is effective in killings germs, chlorinated water can taste and smell “different,” and there is a growing debate about the long-term health effects of drinking chlorinated water.


Oh, geez, is my water even safe to drink?

Whether your water comes from the city or a well, determining your water quality is very important to your health. Your water may contain undesirable contaminants like toxic metal salts, hormones, and pesticides, or it may become contaminated by chemicals or microbes within pipes (e.g. lead, bacteria, protozoa). Your Plumber can test your water for chlorine levels, but homeowners can also test their own water quality.

Well, now what should I do?

We actually recommend both water filtration and “softening,” not with a traditional chemical water softener, but rather a water conditioner


In our own home, we use the HALO 5 water system, which both filters and conditions water.

Water conditioning effectively controls hard water problems without the use of chemicals. Using a magnetic technology that reverses the polarity of calcium and magnesium, these minerals become suspended in water, which then flows through your plumbing system without any scaling deposits – and actually dissolves existing scale. Since no chemicals are used, the purity of the water is not affected in anyway, and can even be used in your garden! 

The HALO 5 water system is one of the most advanced, eco-friendly water treatment systems available. Water flows through four stages of filtration to remove chlorine, heavy metals, man-made pollutants, pesticides, organic contaminants, odors, and more. The filtered water is then run through an inline water conditioner, resulting in softer water that leaves little or no residue behind, which helps prolong the life of your appliances and the plumbing throughout your home.

Simply put, the water that flows out of the system into your home is cleaner and healthier than what flows in.

Is there even a comparison?

We covered a lot, so take a look at a side by side comparison of a traditional chemical water softener versus a whole home water filtration solution like Halo 5.

So, which is better?


Traditional water softeners are a more expensive, less effective way to address hard water scale and corrosion, and actually add more contaminants into household water supplies and the environment.

While we can’t make the ultimate decision for you, we do encourage you to be good to the environment and your family’s health, and would be happy to further discuss the benefits and cost effectiveness of adding a HALO filtration system to your home.