Resort Finds Significant Savings in Water Softener Upgrades

Water and salt use have been down for the Southern California resort since replacing its 30-year-old system
Resort Finds Significant Savings in Water Softener Upgrades
The two alternating, 30-cubic-foot mineral tanks now provide ample, continuous treated water at the resort.

As California continues to recover from drought, the state’s residents are finding resourceful ways to trim their water consumption. Businesses large and small are no exception. 

Aside from agriculture, seaside resorts — with their massive pools, landscaping and large amounts of laundry — are among the largest water-consuming businesses. One 360-room Southern California luxury resort was finding it particularly difficult to practice water conservation during the drought’s peak because of an outdated, wasteful water softening system. 

With the help of nearby Matilija Pure Water Systems, the resort recently made big water- and salt-saving strides.

Time for an upgrade

The nearly-70-year-old Matilija Pure Water Systems provides water quality service to the greater Santa Barbara area. All of the field staff either hold Water Quality Association certification, or are working through the Professional Certification Program. And each technician carries a $500 well water test kit.

As the largest locally-owned water treatment company in the area, Matilija’s 10-truck crew focuses on residential and commercial water filtration, softening and purification. The technicians maintain the systems they install, right down to scheduled salt deliveries.

The existing 30-year-old water softening system at the resort included two 60-cubic-foot mineral tanks. The steel vessels are so large that they were put in place before construction of the facility was complete. Matilija wondered if it was worth the expense to replace the media.

After inspection, the answer was a resounding “no.” When the system was installed in 1986, it was generously sized to serve the entire resort. Not long after, plumbing changes across the 24-acre property removed half the load from the system. Even so, the system wasn’t performing. 

“The valves weren’t working correctly, so maintenance personnel were manually regenerating the media tanks,” says Matilija’s service manager Daniel Masse. “And quite often, they had to do it twice, wasting a lot of water, time and salt. That’s a huge expense. We suggested they consider replacing the system instead of re-bedding it.”

Because of its huge volume, replacing the softener media would have been 25 percent of the cost to replace the entire system.

Fast-paced improvements

Within three weeks of the initial visit, Masse had designed a new system and the project went out to bid. In just a few weeks, the resort would have a system that cut its salt use in half while actually delivering soft water. 

“Ours wasn’t the lowest bid, but we also don’t cut any corners,” says Masse, who’s been with the company since 2010. “For example, I learned that one of the bids reduced the 3-inch waterlines down to 2-inch valves. After we explained why we specified the larger valves, the resort saw the higher value in our proposal.”

A subcontractor was hired for extra manpower on the fast-paced project. With the laundry and main water heaters depending on the water supply, resort management wanted the task completed in a matter days.

“We installed a metered Watts WS3 valve and two alternating, 30-cubic-foot mineral tanks,” says Matt Raley, general manager at Matilija. “We’re the largest Watts dealer in this area. Over the past 10 or 15 years using the product, we’ve found the support we receive to be outstanding. It’s also a big benefit to work with a manufacturer that makes a component for just about every application we encounter.”

Despite being half the size of the original mineral tanks, it wasn’t easy getting the new units in place. There was no room to install the new system next to the old one, so waterlines needed to be piped into the adjacent boiler room. The new tanks were lowered over a handrail and 8 feet down into the mechanical space.     

A large three-way bypass valve was installed right away, and new Schedule 80 PVC was suspended from ceiling anchors. 

“Before the retrofit, the resort was manually regenerating their tanks, using two pallets of salt each month, and still didn’t have soft water,” says Masse. “Now, they’re using half as much salt, water tests indicate zero grains of hardness, and the system regenerates automatically.”

The entire eight-day project was a race against the clock. Hiring the extra help played a key role in the success of the project, and so did familiarity with the products used.

“When we find good products, we stick with them,” says Raley. “We’re not the cheapest source of water quality expertise, but we provide premium service and carry high-end components. We shy away from less-expensive water treatment products because we’ve learned they just don’t hold up in Southern California.”


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