PACE Turf - Turfgrass Information Center

Water conditioners and magic pipes: too good to be true?

Bottom line: Four different in–line water conditioning products — Aqua–PhyD, Fre–Flo, Magnawet and Zeta–Core — were tested in a four year study conducted at the New Mexico State University golf course. The research shows that none of the products tested caused any improvements in either turf quality or salinity management. The authors conclude that "After four years of research investigating several non–chemical water conditioners, a consistent positive impact of these conditioning units on turf quality and rootzone salinity could not be substantiated."


As tighter budgets and water conservation become priorities for turf managers world wide, a large number of products have been introduced that make claims ranging from improved turf quality, to reduced soil salinity to decreased water use. Unfortunately, the research needed to back up these claims is complicated, long term and expensive to produce. But now, thanks to Dr. Bernd Leinauer and colleagues at New Mexico State University, the extensive research has been done, with very conclusive results reported.

The study was performed on perennial ryegrass maintained at fairway height (5cm) at the New Mexico State University golf course. Half of the plots were irrigated with potable water (0.6 dS/m) and half with saline water (3.1 dS/m). The four test products were mounted into the water supply lines at the start of the study.

Dr. Leinauer and his team made many evaluations over the four year period, including visual turf quality, NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) turf quality, and soil electrical conductivity, sodium concentration and sodium absorption ratio (SAR). In order to summarize the voluminous data that was produced, we identified the number of times that each test product performed in the top tier, from a statistical standpoint. We were hoping to see some products that performed better than the non–treated check plots, but this was sadly not the case, as shown below:

Summary of 2006 – 2008 data on turf quality and salinity management (soil sodium and SAR values). Of the 62 evaluations made during this time period, none of the test products performed better than the non treated check plots. Only data which directly compared all four test products was included in this summary.

  Type of water conditioner Number of times in top tier % times in top tier
No treatment   5 8.1 %
Aqua-PhyD hydro–electrical 2 3.2 %
Fre–Flo catalytic 3 4.8 %
Magnawet magnetic 4 6.5 %
Zeta–Core catalytic 5 8.1 %

Reference: Leinauer, B., Barrick, T., Serena, M., Schiavon, M., and Maier, B. 2012. Physical water conditioners for managing turfgrasses. Golf Course Management, November, 2012.

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