Someone recently told us that sodium and salt mean the same thing… and they do NOT mean the same thing at all. Sodium, represented by ‘Na’ on the periodic table in the metal family, combines with Cl (chloride) to form a salt: NaCl.
The salt shaker on your kitchen table more than likely contains NaCl.
Other metals such as Mg (magnesium) and Ca (calcium) can also form salts in the presence of Cl (chloride), but they do not impart the same ‘saltiness’ to water and/or foods as NaCl.
Scientists have not, yet, determined the exact reason WHY different salts will taste salty, bitter or some other way, but evidence seems to point in the direction of Cl bringing saltiness to the table (pun intended) and the metals interacting with the Cl in their own unique ways causing each metal-chloride combination to have different taste characteristics.
Salty drinking water
We most often hear of this happening when one of two things has happened: 1) a water softener has developed a problem with its backwash cycle (i.e. too long a rinsing w/ salt charged water); 2) sea water (or salt water from surface runoff) has found its way into an aquifer accessed by private wells.
Regardless of how the salt got there, health experts believe that consuming too much salt, meaning NaCl, on a regular basis can have detrimental effects on a person’s health.
Testing for salt in drinking water
While simply tasting water typically serves as a surefire means of determining whether or not water contains unwanted levels of dissolves NaCl, do not drink water if you fear it has become contaminated with salt water. You will NOT like the outcome.
Use of a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter or an EC (electrical conductivity) meter will allow you to get a quick overview of your water’s potential salt concentration. While in most cases neither meter will give you a definite ‘this is salt’ verdict, water that contains elevated NaCl levels will have both a higher total dissolved solids and electrical conductivity reading than the same water sample without elevated salt levels… and even if not actually salt that either meter detects, the fact that either or both meters picked up something dissolved in the water should make you consider having a water professional test your water.