The use of road salt to manage snow and ice on roadways and parking lots is polluting water throughout the Chicago region and beyond. While maintaining public safety during winter conditions is absolutely necessary, much of the salt applied to paved surfaces under current practices is excessive, leading to huge economic and environmental costs. The scale of this problem is massive because salt is applied to all paved surfaces including roads, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks.
The good news? There are Sensible Salting Best Management Practices (BMPs) that can safely manage snow and ice while reducing the amount of salt used. The bad news? Current practices that drive the excess use of salt are well-established. So how can we help change behavior and protect water resources?
With transportation agencies working on road salt reduction, the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA) Sensible Salting Sub-Committee has determined that the next greatest reduction can be achieved by changing salt use practices on parking lots.
Protecting and conserving our water supply is a priority of all water resource managers, public works directors, and municipal leaders in the Chicago area. What is one of the most efficient ways to address water conservation? Look at the lawns.
Landscape and lawn watering is the leading discretionary use of water in the Chicago region, accounting for more than thirty percent of all residential water use. Additionally, as much as fifty percent of all water used outdoors is wasted due to inefficient watering methods and systems.
This use puts a strain on existing water resources, particularly in Northwest Water Planning Alliance communities. It also impacts existing water infrastructure, causing peak usage to rise and increasing the need for additional capacity-building infrastructure, which can be of huge cost to communities.
The latest updates page features posts about issues affecting NWPA member communities and best practices, drawing on interviews and conversations with experts.