The Skinny on Salt – Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance

In Wisconsin, using salt at some point during the darkest months of the year is unavoidable. Many residents, schools, and businesses use de-icing salt on sidewalks and parking lots to keep us safe. Unfortunately, local rivers are facing the consequences of excessive winter salt use.

Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance

What’s wrong with salt?

Once salt is in the environment it doesn’t go away. It ends up in our lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands, putting our aquatic life at risk and endangering our freshwater resources. Our local lakes, waterways, groundwater and soil have been absorbing virtually all of the salt spread in the city for more than six decades. Chloride from salt is toxic to small aquatic life and degrades the natural eco-system of our lakes. Once salt is in our waterways, it does not break down – it’s here to stay. It only takes 1 teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water to a level that is toxic to freshwater ecosystems. There are also negative impacts to our infrastructure, our economy, and our pets. – Wisconsin Salt Wise

The good news is, we don’t need to sacrifice safe, ice-free driveways and sidewalks for healthier waterways. We just need to be smarter about salt. Here are some tips for reducing salt in our waterways this year:

Shovel often and early
The more snow you remove, the less salt you have to use. Clear sidewalks and driveways before snow turns to ice.
Reduce the amount of salt you use
If you choose to lay salt, make sure you’re not using too much. A little salt goes a long way; a coffee mug of salt can treat a 20-foot long driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. Really!
When it’s too cold outside, ditch the sodium chloride
Salt “melts” ice by lowering the freezing point of water to about 15 degrees. So, when pavement temperatures drop below 15, salt isn’t effective. Choose sand for traction or a different deicer that works at lower temps.
Sweep the salt
After salt has done its job of melting ice, sweep it up. Sweeping excess salt keeps it from running off into our storm drains and local waters when the snow and ice melt. You can even reuse swept-up salt the next time it snows!

For more tips to reduce water pollution at home,
visit Renew Our Waters.