A view of snow on a road, sidewalk, and trees.

Using Road Salt in Winter

Help prevent water pollution

Jump To:

Using Salt Near Storm Drains Environmental Impacts Practices for Professionals

When it snows - don't use a lot of salt on roads, driveways, and sidewalks. Use enough to keep these surfaces from getting icy. This will help prevent chemicals, like sodium chloride, from getting into storm drains and streams. 

Using Salt Near Storm Drains

Before Applying Salt
Shovel and/or scrape as much snow and ice from the sidewalk, driveway, or road before applying salt. Make sure you don't block storm drains when you shovel. 

Applying Salt
Follow directions on the salt bag or container before applying salt to surfaces. Apply to slick/icy areas only. Be sure to shovel snow away from the storm drain after ice melts. 

If you need more salt because the area is still icy - make sure you don't use too much! Only apply in places that are slick or icy. 

Environmental Impacts

Road salt (or rock salt) is a form of sodium chloride. This chemical can dissolve in stormwater runoff when snow and ice melt.

Snowmelt is Stormwater Runoff

Snowmelt is like rain. It goes from land and impervious surfaces right to storm drains and local creeks and rivers. If water picks up too much salt as it flows through the city, a buildup of chemicals in waterways can impact the environment. 

Why it Happens

Saltwater is more dense than freshwater, which causes salt to sink to the bottom of a waterway. Too much salt in water can harm plants and animals that live in or near streams and rivers. Road salt dehydrates plant roots that help soak up stormwater. Animals can also mistake road salt for food.

Practices for Professionals

Do you work with road salt or do road maintenance in the winter? Follow these tips to keep pollution out of the stormwater system. You'll protect the environment and help us meet permit requirements. 

  1. Pile salt and ice melt away from storm drains, ditches, and waterways. 
  2. Follow instructions on salt labels so you only apply the required amount to roads. 
  3. Slow down when driving the plow near waterways, wetlands, and other environmental areas. 
  4. Regularly clean, inspect, and repair equipment in a designated area. (i.e. indoors or where you can use inlet protection)
  5. Store equipment and salt to keep contaminates from reaching storm drains. 



Zachary Poole
Illicit Discharge Coordinator 

Engineering Services
Service Categories:
Related Services:
Report Water PollutionLearn About Stormwater