Source water facts: Road salt

Why is salt a threat to our source water?

When snow melts or when it rains, the salt used on roads, parking lots and sidewalks to keep us safe washes into our waterways or travels underground in to the source of our drinking water. If we don’t use salt properly, salt levels will increase in Guelph’s drinking water. Increased concentrations of salt in our drinking water may have health impacts on those with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular, kidney, or liver disease.

Did you know? Salt includes all products with chloride. Whether it’s called salt, de-icer or is labelled 100 per cent natural or environmentally friendly, it most likely contains chloride and is salt.

What can I do to protect our source water from salt?

Municipal roads are only one source of salt in the environment. We all have to practice responsible salt use to protect our water resources.

Tips for residents

Try some of these tricks to reduce your salt use at home during the winter:

  • Deal with the water before it turns to ice. Store snow where it won’t melt on to paved areas. Repair leaky downspouts and eaves troughs, and direct downspouts away from walkways and driveways.
  • Reduce your use of salt. Salt (sodium and chloride) works best between 0 and -10 degrees Celsius. All you need is about one tablespoon of salt for a one-metre square area. If grains of salt are left after the pavement dries, you used too much.
  • Use alternative products, other than salt, to create traction on slippery surfaces. Sand or non-clumping kitty litter are good choices and they work well when it’s too cold for salt to work.
  • Only treat icy areas. Remove as much ice as you can with an ice chopper. Only use salt, sand or non-clumping kitty litter on icy patches.
  • Clear snow as soon as you can. Clear snow as soon as possible so it doesn’t get packed down and turn to ice.
  • Properly store and clean up excess salt. Empty leftover salt from your scoop or bucket back into the bag, and not on the ground. Sweep up excess salt to save for another time. Remember, salt does not expire, so store left over salt to use next winter.

Tips for businesses and property managers

Try these tips to reduce salt use on your property:

  • Hire a Smart About Salt™ certified contractor
  • Adjust road salt application rates to suit current and forecast conditions. In general, use less salt when temperatures are rising and more salt when they are falling.
  • Deal with the water before it turns to ice. Store snow where it won’t melt on to paved areas. Repair leaky downspouts and eaves troughs, and direct downspouts away from walkways and driveways. Keep storm drains clear to help melting snow drain away from your property.
  • Use alternative products whenever possible to create traction on icy surfaces. Sand is a good choice and works well when it’s too cold for the salt to work.
  • Try de-icing liquid. Applying salt brine before a storm to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement requires less product than traditional salt use.
  • Only treat icy areas. Don’t use salt on your whole property unless you need to.
  • Remove snow before applying road salt to reduce the amount needed to melt remaining snow and ice.
  • Properly store salt. Store road salt and de-icing liquids on an impermeable pad under a cover or roof, or in sealed containers, to prevent exposure to weather conditions. Salt does not expire, so store left over salt to use next winter.
  • Make sure winter maintenance operators, contractors, and site supervisors are trained in best salt management practices.

What the City of Guelph is doing

  • Investing in new winter salt spreading equipment
  • Updating the City’s overall salt management plan
  • Training staff in Smart About Salt practices
  • Promoting salt best management processes

Resources

87 KBSource water protection fact sheet: Road salt (PDF)

For more information

519-822-1260 extension 3320
sourcewater@guelph.ca