Salt Management

It's time for a salting shift

Waterloo Region relies on groundwater for drinking water. Over time the de-icing salt - including environmentally-friendly ice melters - we put on the ground can end up in our drinking water and cause it to taste salty.

The I Am Groundwater blog post "Is salt really that bad for water?" discusses the impacts of salt on fresh water and this infographic includes how salt can impact the environment.

Help keep salt out of groundwater:

Why salt is a water quality concern
  • For drinking water, it’s all about the taste. The Ontario Drinking Water Objectives for chloride is 250mg/L. This is when a salty taste may be detectable by some people. De-icing salt including environmentally-friendly ice melter products contain chloride.
  • Chloride levels are increasing in groundwater wells. The image below compares chloride levels in Region of Waterloo municipal groundwater wells between 1998 and 2018. The orange and red dots are groundwater wells with chloride levels near or exceeding the 250 mg/L limit. Currently, the Region of Waterloo must mix groundwater from different wells to lower the chloride levels.
  • Current water and wastewater treatment does not remove salt from the water. Chloride is highly soluble. Once it dissolves in water there's really no effective way to remove it.  Removing salt requires desalination which is extremely expensive and energy intensive, and greatly increases greenhouse gases. Including desalination as part of the treatment process would also result in much higher water costs for the community.

Water quality (chloride) at Region of Waterloo well fields between 1973 and 2014

What the Region of Waterloo is doing
Blog posts about salt management
Research projects and studies
  • Snow and Ice Control for Parking Lots and Sidewalks, University of Waterloo. Addresses the common question winter maintenance contractors face each winter: what are the right snow and ice control methods, materials, and amounts of material that should be applied under specific winter weather conditions?
  • Friction and Parking Lots, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. Friction testing show us that bare pavement is safest, as it has the highest friction value, and that the over-application of salt does not translate to safer conditions. The takeaway from this is that if you achieve bare pavement in a reasonable amount of time with little to no residual salt, you applied the right amount.
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