💧 NJ American Water warns road salt can negatively impact our drinking water

💧 Rock salt can also affect aquatic life, infrastructure, and the environment.

💧 NJ American Water offers tips to reduce these impacts when using winter salt

New Jersey’s first snowstorm of the season happened this weekend in certain parts of the state, and more could be on the way as winter continues. But with snow comes the need for de-icing roads, driveways, and sidewalks for safety.

The Impacts of Rock Salt

However, New Jersey American Water and The Watershed Institute warn that the road salt typically used to melt ice and snow can negatively impact drinking water supplies, aquatic life, infrastructure, and the environment.

Studies have shown increasing concentrations of sodium chloride in streams across the U.S. related to the use of road salt, said Laura Norkute, Director of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance at New Jersey American Water.

“In New Jersey, especially we see this often in real-time. We see the levels of sodium content increase in our source waters following a winter weather event, and of course, with the rise of chloride levels in our source waters, that can make the drinking water more difficult to treat,” Norkute said.

Defocused young man, male in winter coat cleaning, shoveling driveway, street from snow in heavy snowing snowstorm, holding shovel, residential houses, snowflakes falling

It can become more corrosive which puts an added strain on the infrastructure and treatment equipment, she added.

Once the rock salt gets into the environment, it can have other long-term effects. Some of those effects can come from the endangering of aquatic and other wildlife, Norkute said. It could damage the plants and trees in those areas, and of course, increase soil erosion. Increased salt levels can also allow salt-tolerant species like mosquitoes and algae to thrive.

The salt can also have a corrosive effect that impacts cars, trucks, bridges, and roadways, she said.

New Jersey American Water has some tips to help reduce the drinking water and environmental impacts when using winter salt.



A good, general rule to remember is that a 12-oz coffee mug is equal to about a pound of salt and that is enough to treat one 20-foot driveway, Norkute said. Use salt sparingly as it’s spread on sidewalks and driveways.

When the snow melts and the pavement is dry, sweep up any extra salt left over so that it does not wash away.

Shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks before it even turns to ice. This will reduce the need for de-icing, Norkute said.

Consider using a different kind of salt. Calcium magnesium acetate and magnesium chloride are generally better alternatives to sodium chloride.

If you’re using a contractor for snow clearing or de-icing services, discuss agreements to pay by the area cleared instead of the amount of salt used. Norkute said this will encourage the contractor to be a bit more efficient about the application of salt on the property.

To find a list of deicers that meet the United States Environmental Agency’s Safer Choice Standard, visit here.

Sprinkling rock salt on a driveway or sidewalk after a snowstorm may not seem like it would have a significant impact.

“But when you multiply it by the millions of roadways, households, and businesses across our state, winter salt usage really adds up. By incorporating these tips into your de-icing routine, we can all work together to protect our water sources and the environment,” Norkute said.

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