How Does the Water Quality in Bristol Affect Your Home?

Clean water is a human right that we’re lucky to have free access to, but not all water is equal, especially if you live in a heavily urbanised area, or city, like Bristol. Hard water is a problem that frequently affects the homes of Bristol’s inhabitants, and whilst water of a lower quality isn’t exactly going to harm your health, it can affect your quality of life in a number of ways.

But what exactly is hard water, and how will it affect you?

Hard water is effectively water that has higher than average mineral content. The natural geology of Bristol, primarily the large limestone composites, ensures that water hardness is a feature throughout the city. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium dissolve as the water moves over and through the ground and filters into it. Measuring the level of these minerals that determine the hardness of the water.

Below is a table of the most common standards for classifying hard water.

Hardness Description Total Hardness
mg/l Calcium carbonate UK Degrees Clark (°C) French Degrees (°f) German Degrees (°dH)
Soft < 150 < 11 < 15 < 9
Hard 150 – 300 11 – 21 15 – 30 9 – 18
Very Hard > 300 > 21 > 30 > 18

Living in Bristol means that hard water runs through your plumbing every day, extending out into your appliances, pipes and even your bodies. All of the water supplied in Bristol is hard water, with over 200 milligrams per litre of calcium carbonate.

However, of the 120,000 drinking water tests carried out in Bristol each year, more than 99.9% have been compliant with EU and UK drinking water standards. So although the water hardness is high, so is the quality, meaning that it will have no real consequential effects on your health. The dissolved minerals that make up the water, however, can build up on fixtures and become an expensive nuisance.

The Effects of Hard Water in Bristol

On Your Pipes and Plumbing

The scale deposits of the minerals in hard water can build up over time and clog your pipes and plumbing. Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals that can contribute to the inefficient operation of your plumbing system, constricting the flow of water and ultimately leading to failure. Calling out a plumber to fix your central heating can be a costly expense.

Whilst this is usually more of an issue with older steel pipes, in most hot water systems limescale can build up in the hot water cylinders, reducing their efficiency and driving up the cost of your bills. In fact, a study performed by showed that an average 4 person household generates up to 70 kg of limescale in a single year. And when even a 1.6mm coating of limescale on a heating element can make it up to 12% less effective, potentially causing you to waste up to £200 worth of energy every year, you might as well line your pipes with money.

On Your Appliances

The most pervasive and potentially costly problems caused by hard water are usually with your appliances. The scale deposits can wreak havoc on many appliances in your home, from your combi boiler to your dishwasher, causing a buildup of sediment that can drastically reduce the efficiency of your appliances and drive up your utility bills.

Washing Machine Element with Hard Water Scaling

Hard water can cause a washing machine to wear out 30% faster than normal and it’s estimated that hard water can cost you up to £700 extra a year, in both maintenance and bills. Similarly, the increase of detergent and soap necessitated by a buildup of limescale can also cost you more annually.

You’ll notice a buildup of limescale through tiny particles of limescale float freely in the water of appliances such as your kettle, though this can be reduced by frequently rinsing.

On Your Health

One of the most noticeable effects of hard water is skin irritation. The cleansing products used while showering can’t dissolve well in the water due to the minerals present, leaving deposits left on the body that can suck the moisture right out of your skin. Many people who bathe with hard water notice dry skin and even hard or bumpy patches of skin caused by dryness and irritation.

Hard Water Effect on Skin

Using a water softener can get rid of some of the minerals dissolved in the water and make it easier for shampoos and soaps to dissolve in the water and rinse cleanly from the skin. And even lowering the temperature of your hot water to 60°C can reduce the amount of limescale formed.

Hard water is not a health hazard. While some studies suggest a correlation between hard water and lower cardiovascular disease mortality, other studies do not suggest a correlation, and it is generally recognised that hard water is more than safe, even contributing a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs.

Where is the Hard Water in Bristol?

If you’re on a municipal water system, your water supplier will be able to tell you the hardness level of the water they deliver. Bristol Water has a handy postcode finder, where they can tell you, in detail, the chemical and mineral makeup of your water.

All of Bristol’s water is classed as hard, but there are different levels over the different areas, largely determined by the various water sources, such as lakes, supplying the specific locales. For instance, the water quality in Clifton and Kingsdown is slightly harder, with a total hardness of 214 mg/l, than the water in Bedminster, with a total of 197 mg/l. Knowing these specifics can be useful when choosing appliances or even central heating systems to fit into your home, as some handle higher mineral levels better than others.

If you have a private water supply, you can have the water tested for hardness. Most water testing laboratories offer hardness tests for a fee. When using these water tests, be certain you understand the nature of the test, the water condition being measured, and the significance of the test results. Water hardness testing kits are available for purchase through water testing supply companies and there are some great DIY water testing kits. If more accurate measurements are needed, contact a testing laboratory.

How Can You Protect Your Home From Hard Water?

Hard water is inescapable, but there are measures you can take to mitigate its effects. You can install a water conditioner or softener, which remove the excess minerals, like calcium, magnesium and iron from your water as it comes in from the source. In some homes, it may be necessary to fit a water conditioner or softener before a heating unit.

To save yourself from any headaches, it’s always best to talk to a plumber to assess your homes plumbing requirements.

Just because Bristol is a hard water city, it doesn’t mean that your water should make your life any harder. If you suspect that you’re suffering from any plumbing problems caused by hard water, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01179 093 967.