Road salt (sodium chloride) 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. What can you do?
1. Test the chloride in your stream
Request a FREE test kit using the form at the right and follow the instructions you receive with your kit. 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 day or rainstorm following a snow or freeze.
- After the next rain event.
2. Share your results on Water Reporter
Download the Water Reporter app (FREE for Apple and Android) and follow the simple instructions at right. 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 last year's results!
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.)
- Share road salt best practices with your community managers and state agencies.
Protect the health of your streams – and your community – with Winter Salt Watch!
Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about Winter Salt Watch? Start here for some of the top questions we hear.