A Low-Salt Diet for our Lakes and Streams

Salt on SidewalkA little salt goes a long way for managing snow and ice. But too much salt – which may be less than you think – can cause irreversible damage to nearby lakes and streams.

The danger of ice and snow on roads and sidewalks is a fact of life in Minnesota, and salt and sand can help reduce ice and add traction. When that snow inevitably melts, however, most of that salt and sand wash directly into nearby waters.

Currently, salt use is not regulated, but it poses a real threat to clean water. The chloride contained in one teaspoon of road salt can permanently pollute five gallons of water. Chloride upsets aquatic environments and can kill birds and some plants.

Many people use more salt than they need.  But using more salt does not melt more ice, or melt it faster. In reality, salt only works when there is enough snow or ice for it to react with and excess crystals will eventually become a pollutant. It’s best to use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet. One pound of salt fills up a 12-ounce coffee mug.

Want to protect your local lake or stream from chloride pollution? Here are some easy ways you can help:

  • Apply salt or other de-icers before snow storms, so you will need less later.
  • Shovel regularly (a great form of winter exercise) to minimize ice buildup.
  • Break up ice with an ice scraper before deciding if sand or a de-icer is necessary for traction – you may find that it’s not.
  • Use sand instead of salt in below 15 degree temperatures
  • Sweep up any salt that’s visible on dry pavement and use it elsewhere or throw it away.

By using salt wisely, you can save money, time and the environment without sacrificing safety. Learn more at www.minnehahacreek.org/salt