Road salt is everywhere during winter months. It keeps us safe on roads and sidewalks, but it can also pose a threat to fish and wildlife as well as human health.
Fish and bugs that live in freshwater streams can't survive in extra salty water. And many of us (more than 118 million Americans) depend on local streams for drinking water. Water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out the extra salt, so it can end up in your tap water and even corrode your pipes. You can find more details on road salt and stream health in a recent IWLA blog.
What can you do?
STEP 1: Test the chloride in your stream. Follow the instructions you received with your test kit from the League. (You can also order your own chloride test strips from Amazon.) You'll want to test your stream:
- Before a winter storm (to get a baseline reading).
- After salt has been applied to roads.
- After the first warm-weather day or rainstorm following a snow or freeze.
- After the next rain event.
STEP 2: Share your results using the free Water Reporter app. Just follow these simple instructions. With test results in one place, we can identify salt hot spots around the country, and you can see how salt is affecting your community. Check out the Winter Salt Watch map below!
STEP 3: Take action. If you find high levels of chloride, let someone know!
- Call your city or county department of environmental protection to report high chloride levels or large salt piles.
- Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper or other news outlet to educate your community about this issue. You can start with our sample letter and adapt it for your use. (Download the Word file or PDF.)
Protect the health of your streams – and your community – with Winter Salt Watch!
Have questions about the Winter Salt Watch? Start here for some of the top questions we hear.