Minnesota winters can be harsh. From the below zero temperatures and winds that will take your breath away, to the onslaught of sudden blizzard conditions, safety is certainly a priority. Luckily, maintaining roads and sidewalks for safety does not necessitate harm for Minnesota’s freshwater and the wildlife that depends on it. With just a bit of know-how, we can all be backyard wildlife heroes by learning to “salt smart.”

Did you know that just one teaspoon of salt makes 5 gallons of freshwater uninhabitable for most aquatic species? Every year, 350,000 tons of salt is applied in the Twin Cities Metro Area alone. As the salt that is applied to roads and sidewalks melts the snow and ice, it is dissolved in the water and moves to nearby lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Unfortunately, salt (or chloride) is virtually a permanent pollutant: it does not break down and it accumulates over time. As a result, many lakes in the Metro Area now exceed the chloride standards and are often uninhabitable for many species of wildlife, harming fish, freshwater mussels, turtles, and aquatic plant life. Salt also puts our drinking water at risk and damages infrastructure through corrosion.

So, how can you help at home? FOLLOW THESE “SALT SMART” STEPS

  1. Use liquid deicer before storms to reduce salt use by 87%. Purchase it premixed or mix it yourself (three parts water to one part salt). Use a garden sprayer to apply it.
  2. Timely snow and ice removal is key. Try to get out and remove snow with your shovels or snow blower as soon as possible.
  3. Salt sparingly. The salt granules should be about three inches apart and applied only when temperature is above 20F! Drop spreaders can help ensure you don’t apply an excess.
  4. Sweep up and re-use excess salt.
  5. Tell others how and why to salt smart by handing out cards that can be picked up at city halls.
  6. Learn more here!

Thank you for your doing your part to protect Minnesota’s natural resources and our abundant wildlife!