A low salt diet for Lake Wingra


We know that a low salt diet is good for our hearts, it’s also good for our lakes!

Winter has finally arrived and with winter comes the need for winter maintenance of streets, parking lots, sidewalks, etc.  Road salts are often used by those doing winter maintenance and often over used as the above picture from WiSaltWise.com shows.  Studies have shown that applicators often use 4-6 times as much as is necessary to do the job.  This matters because road salts are very hazardous to the environment, our waterways, our drinking water and also corrosive to expensive infrastructure.  Road salts contain chlorides which are toxic to aquatic life in Lake Wingra, current chloride levels in the lake may be affecting the natural reproduction of fish.  Further, once the salt works its way into our lakes or our drinking water it is nearly impossible to remove and it doesn’t break down over time like other pollutants can.

The City of Madison and other municipalities are working to reduce the amount of road salts applied in order to protect our local natural resources and city infrastructure.  Friends of Lake Wingra recently received funding from Madison Metropolitan Sewarage District and City of Madison Engineering Department to work on a Road Salt Reduction Demonstration project this winter.  Through this project we will be working with at least one local salt applicator, Mad Plowing and Mowing, who is going to be testing out a liquid brine as anti-icer in some of their parking lots. Their calculations show that they may be able to decrease their salt application by 75% by applying anti-icing brine prior to winter weather events.

Many local salt applicators (private and municipal) have participated in training to learn effective road salt reduction techniques, these applicators are taking steps to be good stewards of our environment.  While some applicators may claim that they have to put down more salt to avoid liability this is unnecessary.  Using more salt does not make the salt work faster or better, it is just wasteful.  Some evidence shows that applicators that have learned about appropriate winter maintenance techniques, developed a road salt usage policy and applied the appropriate amount of salt may be less at risk from a lawsuit than those who routinely apply too much.

Friends of Lake Wingra is asking all of our supporters to help us be good stewards of our lakes this year by taking three simple steps.

  1. If you see businesses that are using too much salt (as exhibited by the photo above), let the business know that too much has been applied and ask them to sweep up the excess and use less in the future.
  2. If you hire a private applicator for your winter maintenance needs let your applicator know that you care about the environment and want them to use the appropriate amount of salt.  The recommended amount is 3 lb/1000 square feet.  You could actually measure your area, calculate the amount of salt needed and tell them that you will not pay for more than the recommended amount!
  3. Read other tips on www.WiSaltWise.com and share them with your friends and neighbors.

We know that our Friends and that the people in Madison are smart, conscientious people who care about the environment and also don’t want to waste money with the overuse of road salt.  Contamination of our waterways from road salt over usage is not something we need to tolerate.  We are going to be out and about this winter talking to people about reducing road salt usage, get in touch via email at info@lakewingra.org if you can help out!