Salty Softeners, Salty Rivers

We all know that road salt is bad for our beloved Speed River. But what about that seemingly invisible source in our basements?

Who knew that a zoom event about water softeners and salt was just what people needed to beat the COVID blahs?

eMERGE was delighted to host: Steve Gombos, Steve Yessie and Hugh Whitely who shared their expertise on the impacts of water softener salt on our rivers in Guelph

Steve Gombos, from the Region of Waterloo, shared how softening only hot water in your home could save over 60% on salt and water costs for your softener.

Steve Yessie from the City of Guelph showed that less salt use can be a pathway to cleaner water and healthier environment, improved ecosystem, and reduced climate change impacts.  He shared results of the research that both the City of Guelph and the Region of Waterloo piloted on the use of water conditioners in a residential setting in 2017/18. The report of this pilot study was released in late 2019: A Salt-free Alternative to Residential Water Softeners . The report looked at changes in water/salt use, as well as users attitudes toward the new evolving technology..

The main takeaways from the webinar included

  • Read the manual to understand your softener better (very wise idea)
  • Modify plumbing to soften only the hot water line
  • Replace older timer based softeners with demand-based models that can help limit unnecessary salt and water use
  • Switch to appliances with built in softeners where possible (such as dishwashers)
  • Consider other water conditioning technologies
  • Do your research and ask the expert.

A recording of the webinar can be found on our YouTube Channel here!

The slide deck for this webinar is now available here.


Water softeners can compete with volumes of road salt that we pour into our rivers. The added salt is bad enough, but these softeners also mean we use more water to operate them. All of this impacts our environment including climate change.

Water softeners are seen by many as an almost necessary piece of household equipment in Guelph. They provide several real and perceived benefits, but come with a few drawbacks.

What are we to do? … Lots.

Learn how you can cut your salt use by up to 60%, benefit our rivers, fight climate change and save money

Steve Gombos, from the Region of Waterloo, will illustrate how softeners work, how softeners contribute to chloride pollution in Region of Waterloo waterways, show us different types of smart water softeners and conditioners available to homeowners and the smart way to soften efficiently to save water, salt and money.

Steve Yessie, City of Guelph Water Department, will discuss the Guelph perspective of household softener use, the benefits and challenges of water softeners, as wells as ways to reduce related water and salt use.


About Our Speakers

Steve Gombos| Manager of Water Efficiency, Region of Waterloo

Steve Gombos helps conserve the Region’s vital drinking water for the future, while also helping people reduce water consumption today. Steve has served on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Water Efficiency, and as Chair of the Ontario Water Works Association Water Efficiency Committee. Steve has authored numerous articles for trade publications related to water efficiency, waste management and the environment. He frequently provides topical presentations to international, national and local audiences.

Steve Yessie| Water Conservation Program Coordinator, City of Guelph

Steve Yessie has worked in the sustainability field for the past 7 years. In 2018 he joined the Water Conservation and Efficiency team with the City of Guelph. In his role at the City Steve coordinates the Multi-Residential Water Audit and Water Sub-Meter Rebate programs. In addition to these programs he focuses much of his time toward community education. This finds Steve leading tours of the local Water Services facility and in front of classrooms at schools across the City discussing source protection, conservation, efficiency and best practices related to water.



The sponsors of this event:


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eMERGE Guelph fights climate change by energizing the community to achieve 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.

42 Carden Street, 
Guelph, ON N1H 3A2
[email protected]

eMERGE Guelph fights climate change by energizing the community to achieve 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.

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