Save on salt2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Written by: Colleen Brown, Region of Waterloo Water Services
Salt is one way to keep surfaces we use for walking, biking and driving clear of snow and ice. But using too much or when not required is damaging to our environment including the community’s drinking water.
After salt melts ice, it doesn’t go away. It can soak into the groundwater to mix with groundwater – the main source of our drinking water. Over time salt can make our drinking water taste salty.
Salt alternatives that are not damaging to water are hard to find. If the product melts the ice it most likely contains salt. This includes ice melter products labelled environmentally friendly. No matter what you use to remove the ice, it’s important to use the right amount and only use when required.
To address this problem, the Region of Waterloo encourages businesses to follow winter maintenance best practices. This can include closing outdoor areas that don’t block emergency exits, accessibility ramps or entrances such as overflow parking, outdoor patios, extra walkways and stairways. Closing unused areas can mean less salt on the ground impacting groundwater.
Road winter maintenance can include a variety of tools that help with balancing road safety with the environmental impacts of salt.
Homeowners can help by clearing the snow before it packs down and turns to ice, breaking up ice with a steel ice chopper and sprinkling salt on icy areas only. In many cases, a few tablespoons of salt for a one square metre area (size of a sidewalk slab) is all you need. And if it’s colder than -10 degrees celsius, salt won’t work – switch to sand for traction.
Stopping winter salting completely might not be an option but there are actions we can all take to use less. Learn more at www.regionofwaterloo.ca/SaltingShift.