February 15th | Salt Use in the Winter

The Soak It Up! Project

Where does it end up when the snow melts?

Eventually salt ends up in our rivers, lakes and streams—permanently

We have a whole lot of snow in the La Crosse area this year, and with snow comes ice and slippery roads. Yes, we need to keep our roads, parking lots, sidewalks and front steps safe, but how do we do it without permanently polluting our waterways?

Simple: Shovel more. Salt less. Better yet, STOP USING SALT ALTOGETHER.

Salt does not disappear over time. It stays in water and permanently impacts our freshwater resources. Salt not only is contaminating our groundwater, it is becoming a serious issue in our wetlands. The concentration of salt can continue to increase year after year until wetlands become toxic to aquatic wildlife, slowly turning fresh water into salt water.

Do you know why Flint, Michigan had toxic drinking water? Salt.

“When Flint, Michigan switched its primary water source to the Flint River in 2014, the river’s high salt load caused lead to leach from water pipes, creating that city’s well-documented water crisis.” (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies)


Be proactive. Shovel often. If ice forms, loosen it with one of these salt alternatives:

  • Organic, Salt-Free Deicer  It’s a little pricier than salt, but has no negative effects. There are a ton of options out there. Just google it.
  • Urea  This natural de-icer works and won’t harm pets, corrode metal or pit concrete, but it can be bad news for plants. Avoid using it near the garden.
  • Beet Juice  This product lowers the freezing point of ice, which makes it easier to clear your driveway. It is one of few options effective below -20 degrees, does not stain, and is safe for animals, people, metals, concrete and plants.
  • Sand, Cat Litter or Coffee Grounds  Sprinkle over icy surfaces to provide traction, and count on these darker colors to absorb heat to help melt ice and snow.

Also, consider where you store your de-icer and where you plow or shovel your snow. Salt storage and snow piles in and around municipal or private wells and infiltration basins can easily lead to long-term problems for our drinking water and wildlife habitats.

“Our Biologist noticed rising salt levels in surface waters around the area. Road salting is the primary contributor. Over application must be common.”
— Charlie Cameron, Environmental Engineer, Bureau of Drinking and Groundwater/Water Division, Wisconsin DNR
Learn more about The Soak It Up! Project