Ion exchange: Ion exchange systems use ion exchange resin- or zeolite-packed columns to replace unwanted ions. The most common case is water softening consisting of removal of Ca2+ and Mg2+ ions replacing them with benign (soap friendly) Na+ or K+ ions. Ion exchange resins are also used to remove toxic ions such as nitrite, lead, mercury, arsenic and many others.
Depending upon the desired product, either the solvent or solute stream of reverse osmosis will be waste. For food concentration applications, the concentrated solute stream is the product and the solvent stream is waste. For water treatment applications, the solvent stream is purified water and the solute stream is concentrated waste. The solvent waste stream from food processing may be used as reclaimed water, but there may be fewer options for disposal of a concentrated waste solute stream. Ships may use marine dumping and coastal desalination plants typically use marine outfalls. Landlocked reverse osmosis plants may require evaporation ponds or injection wells to avoid polluting groundwater or surface runoff.