Put your Sidewalk & Driveway on a Low-salt Diet

It is cold outside and now more than ever, your water needs protecting! Water can easily get polluted in the winter months, especially from using de-icers for snow and ice removal. Snow and ice melting products, known as de-icers, can have negative environmental impacts when melted snow and ice carry the chemicals into our ditches, streams, and rivers. Overuse of certain products, such as salts, can also damage driveways and vehicles, and can be a hazard for pets. In addition, not all de-icing products are equal in terms of cost, environmental impact, or effectiveness.

What can you do?

  • Shovel early, shovel often. De-icers work best when there is only a thin layer of snow or ice that must be melted. If possible, remove as much snow as you can during the storm. Use a hoe or other tool to scrape or chip off ice from the surface before de-icers are applied.
  • If you have a chronic problem with ice forming, determine the source and divert the melting snow away from your sidewalks and driveways to an area where the ice won’t be a problem.        
  • Shovel early in the day, the sun will warm the surface and help melt new snow and prevent the need for de-icers.
  • Shovel before you drive a vehicle on the driveway to reduce packed snow.
  • Make sure to purchase your de-icing product well before the storm hits. Otherwise, you will be looking at empty shelves and have few, if any, environmentally-friendly options to choose from at the store. 
  • Many de-icers will not work in extremely low temperatures. Make sure you are getting the correct product for the situation.
  • Do not use fertilizers for snow and ice removal. Fertilizers are very poor at ice removal, and increase nutrient runoff to streams. 
  • Do not rely on sand to melt snow or ice, for it only increases traction. However, sand can be very helpful in certain situations where better traction is needed.

Remember that when the snow and ice melt, it carries everything along with it into the nearest ditch or stream, often via storm drains. The chemicals you pour on your sidewalks and driveways can have detrimental effects on nearby plants, animals, and water systems. Think carefully about nearby kids, pets, and landscaping that could be affected by the de-icing products used during the winter months. Keep your own safety in mind, for our waterways are our drinking sources. Your rivers will thank you when the snow and ice melt.

Information provided by Snow, Road, Salt and the Chesapeake Bay by Tom Shuler, Center for Watershed Protect. For more information, check out the Salt article. http://danedocs.countyofdane.com/webdocs/pdf/lwrd/lakes/Salt_Article.pdf