Water Softener Discharge Options: A Quick Guide for Homeowners

Water softeners are an essential addition to homes with hard water problems, helping to extend the life of household appliances and improving the overall water quality. As these systems work to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium from the water, they generate backwash and require a proper drainage system. This article will discuss a few common water softener discharge options, making it easier for homeowners to choose the best solution for their specific situation.

The choice of discharge method may vary based on factors such as location, local regulations, and the type of water softener being used. Discharge options can include floor drains, utility sinks, waste stack pipes, or even outdoor solutions like dry wells and French drains. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each choice will help ensure a setup that is both efficient and environment-friendly, supporting the long-term function of your water softening system.

Understanding Water Softeners

How They Work

Water softeners are designed to remove hardness-causing minerals such as calcium and magnesium from water. They use a process called ion exchange, where hard water flows through a resin bed filled with sodium or potassium ions. These ions attract and remove the hardness minerals, replacing them with either sodium or potassium ions, resulting in softened water. This process is also referred to as regeneration.

Over time, the resin bed becomes saturated with hardness minerals and needs to be regenerated. This is done by flushing a salt or potassium chloride solution (brine) through the bed, which removes the collected minerals and recharges the resin beads with fresh sodium or potassium ions. The brine solution, along with the hardness minerals, is then discharged as wastewater or backwash.

Purpose of Discharge

When the water softener regenerates, it produces a wastewater stream known as backwash or discharge. This discharge is a combination of the brine solution and the captured hardness minerals. The purpose of discharging this water is to prevent the resin bed from becoming inefficient and to ensure proper functioning of the water softener system.

Discharge Options

Dry Well Method

A dry well is a simple and effective way to handle water softener discharge. It’s an underground structure that allows the water to percolate into the surrounding soil. This method is environmentally friendly and can help reduce the load on your sewage system. To create a dry well, you need to dig a hole, add gravel, and install a perforated pipe. Make sure to check local regulations before implementing this option. 

Air Gap Fittings

Drainage Field

Another discharge option is to utilize a drainage field. This method involves spreading the softened water over a large area of ground, allowing it to filter down through the soil and replenish groundwater supplies. The design of a drainage field depends on factors such as soil type, weather conditions, and the size of your water softener system. It is crucial to consult local guidelines and ensure the discharged water complies with environmental regulations.

Subsurface Irrigation

Subsurface irrigation systems allow you to use water softener discharge for landscaping purposes. The water is distributed underground through a series of pipes with small holes, providing water directly to the roots of plants. This can help conserve water resources while reducing the need for additional irrigation. When implementing subsurface irrigation, it’s essential to monitor the salinity of the discharged water to avoid harming your plants.

Considerations for Discharge

When planning the discharge of water softener backwash, it is essential to take into consideration various factors to ensure appropriate and eco-friendly waste management. In this section, we will discuss local regulations, the environmental impact of the discharge, and safety measures to be considered.

Local Regulations

Environmental Impact

Safety Measures

Lastly, it is vital to consider safety measures when opting for a discharge solution. Some methods, like connecting the brine tank directly to the sewage system, may require proper installation to prevent issues like backflow. Whether setting up a dry well, French drain, septic drain field or floor drain for water softener backwash discharge, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and efficient discharge system.

Maintenance Tips

Water softener maintenance is essential to ensure the effectiveness and longevity of your system. Following these tips can help you achieve smoother operation and prevent potential issues.

Regular Inspection

Regularly inspecting your water softener can help identify any signs of wear or early indications of problems. Key components to check include:

  • Drain lines and connections: Ensure they are secure, free of leaks, and functioning properly.
  • Brine tank: Monitor salt levels, check for encrusted salt or “salt bridges,” and stir salt when necessary to maintain efficiency.
  • Resin tank: Inspect for visible damage or signs of degradation.

Preventing Obstructions

Obstructions in the drain line can affect the proper discharge of your water softener. To prevent clogs, implement the following steps:

  • Inspect drain lines regularly for debris and buildup.
  • Properly secure connections to prevent loosening or dislocation.
  • Keep the area around the water softener and drain lines clean and clear of obstructions.
  • Monitor the discharge flow to detect any changes that might signify a blockage.

Adjusting Discharge Settings

Adjusting the discharge settings of your water softener can help fine-tune the unit’s efficiency and minimize the environmental impact of its discharge. Some tips include:

By following these maintenance tips, you can help ensure the optimal operation and discharge of your water softener system.


In summary, several effective water softener discharge options are available for homeowners to choose from. Some popular methods include discharging the backwash outside, using a dry well, installing a French drain, connecting to a septic drain field, or utilizing a floor drain.

It’s essential to select the most suitable discharge method for your specific situation, keeping in mind local regulations and environmental factors. Proper drainage is crucial to maintain the efficiency of your water softener and prevent potential issues such as contamination.

Ultimately by selecting and implementing the right water softener discharge method, you can enjoy the benefits of softened water while keeping a safe and responsible approach to waste disposal.