Using Salt Effectively

Salt Improves Winter Conditions but Harms Ecosystems

Keeping roads and parking areas free of ice and snow is important during the winter months. However, road salt – one of the main tools used to achieve this task – contains chloride as its principal ingredient, in both sodium chloride and potassium chloride based products. Chloride does more than melt snow and ice; it negatively impacts local lakes and rivers.

As snow and ice melt, they drain into landscaped areas or storm sewers, and then to natural bodies of water. Waters from a deiced area contain high levels of chlorides, which do not degrade, and there is no cost effective way to remove it. Excessive levels of chlorides can severely impair the ability of plants to absorb water and nutrients.  In surface waters, such as lakes, ponds, and streams, salt can harm or kill aquatic life, including fish and plants.

What can you do to help?

  • Shovel (or use a snow blower) before you use any product; never put a deicing product on top of snow.
  • Adopt the “Just Enough” principle, putting down just enough product to keep high traffic areas clear of ice.
  • Sweep up un-dissolved product after a storm is over for reuse.
  • Consider switching to a non-chloride deicer.
  • Support changes by your municipality to minimize salt usage.
  • Inform a neighbor about the impacts chlorides have in our streams and rivers.