Is Your Drinking Water Another Source of Sodium?

Most Americans consume 3,000-5,000 milligrams of sodium per day, which is 25-55% more than the recommended 2,300 mg/day. For those on a restricted sodium diet, this amount is 2-3 times higher than the recommended 1,500 mg/day. Lisa recently provided tips to reduce sodium in your diet, as most of the salt you get is from food. But if you have high blood pressure or on a restricted sodium diet, have you considered whether your drinking water could be another source of sodium?

For example, if you have a home water softener to treat hard water, the water you drink can have significant amounts of sodium. One study showed that the average sodium concentration of softened well water was 278 mg/L. So, if you limit your sodium intake to 1500 mg/day, you would consume 45% of your allotted daily sodium when drinking the recommended 2.5-liters of water per day (which translates to eight 12-ounce glasses).

How much sodium should be in your drinking water?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends sodium concentrations of 30 to 60 mg/L for drinking water. For those on a sodium-restricted diet, the EPA recommends 20 mg/L of sodium in drinking water. If your water is supplied by a public utility, your provider may have the sodium concentration data available. If you rely on well water, or your public utility does not have the data available, we recommend that you test your water very three years, using a certified lab. Testing is the only way to get accurate results for water sodium levels.

Living on a salt-restricted diet requires a lot of changes in how you cook and dine out. If you’ve been trying to limit your sodium intake, check your drinking water in case it could be acting as a source of sodium. (Photo by Katii Bishop)

How does sodium get into your drinking water?
Sodium can occur naturally in water, but it can also be derived by human activities, like:

  • Water softeners
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Road de-icing salts

Studies in Maryland have shown that salt used for deicing roads has increased sodium and chloride concentrations in streams and shallow groundwater. The levels of sodium from road salts exceed the EPA-recommended limit.

How can you reduce the sodium in your drinking water?

If you have a water softener, make sure that you actually need it by testing for hardness, iron, and manganese. Consider switching to potassium chloride, instead of using sodium chloride, if:

  • Your water has a hardness of “hard” (120 mg/L) or higher,
  • You’re experiencing scale build up in pipes and dishes, or
  • You’re treating for elevated iron and manganese (rust staining).

If you do not have a water softener, you can use a reverse osmosis filter at the faucet(s) where you drink. These small filter units are termed point of use (POU) filters and can be installed under the sink.

You have heard the saying: You are what you eat. Since our bodies are 60% water, then perhaps you are also what you drink. And good quality drinking water is fundamental to your health.

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