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Rethink Salt Use This Winter

Rethink Salt Use This Winter

The WI Salt Wise program will officially become a part of CARPC in January 2023. We are excited to welcome Allison Madison, the program’s Sustainability and Development Coordinator, to our team, further our collaborative water quality planning work around chlorides, and provide another form of assistance to the communities in our region and surrounding communities.

Snow plow driving down street in winter

Every year Wisconsin uses over half a million tons of road salt to deice our roads, and every year thousands of residents use road salt to deice their sidewalks and driveways.

Why? It’s simple. Road salt is effective at melting ice. But after salt does its job, it doesn’t go away.

Every ounce of salt we put on the ground stays in the environment, and our rampant and unregulated use of salt has major consequences:

  1. Road salt is polluting our drinking water. Municipal drinking water and private wells across the state are exhibiting elevated levels of sodium and chloride. Unchecked, this will become dangerous for human health.
  2. Road salt is polluting our rivers and lakes. High salt concentrations are bad for native freshwater species, create habitat for invasive species, and are linked to harmful algal blooms. Just 1 teaspoon of salt is enough to pollute 5 gallons of water.
  3. Road salt destroys infrastructure. The corrosion and rust from road salt costs the state millions of dollars in the premature aging of roads and bridges.
  4. Road salt is expensive. The state of Wisconsin spends over $40 million a year on material costs. With no salt mines in Wisconsin, all of that money is leaving the state.
  5. It hurts your furry friends!

What is the solution? Use less salt!

Wisconsin DOT and municipalities across the state are taking steps to maximize mechanical removal and calibrate equipment to enable precision applications of salt. Additionally, the incorporation of liquid brine before – and in conjunction with – rock salt has been shown to reduce total salt use by 25-50% with no reduction in level of service. This switch will have significant economic and environmental impacts. 

Homeowners: Rethink your need for salt. Shovel and use an ice scraper. Put down outdoor carpet to make stairs safer. Use sand for traction. If you decide to use salt, scatter it so that there is space between the grains. One coffee mug of salt is enough to treat a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk squares. If you hire a professional, talk with them about their salt use. Your neighbors and future generations thank you!

For more information on salt use (both outside and in your water softener) visit: www.wisaltwise.com