Improve smart-salting by reducing chloride use in winter maintenance and dust suppressants to prevent permanent surfacewater and groundwater pollution.

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Improve smart-salting by reducing chloride use in winter maintenance and dust suppressants to prevent permanent surfacewater and groundwater pollution.

Best Practice of this action
Rating Guideline
1 star Certify primary winter maintenance staff through the MPCA's Smart Salting Level 1 training (for city snowplowing, and for parking lots, service roads & sidewalks) and/or Property Management training; follow training recommendations; certify new staff and keep certifications current; actively promote a model contract that private snow/ice service contractors would sign with customers; report decreased use of CaCl dust suppressants and alternative dust measures.
2 star Certify the city at Smart Salting Level 2 by using the MPCA's Smart Salting Assessment Tool to complete a best management practices assessment; redo assessment at least every 3 years; develop or adopt an existing chloride/salt management plan; modify and adopt a model contract for city-hired snow and ice management services that mandates best practices to minimize environmental impacts from sand, chlorides and other chemicals; host a free training for private property managers and contractors.
3 star Adopt a Chloride Reduction ordinance; report use of pervious concrete/paving and resulting salt-use reduction; complete two of: track salt usage; report salt reduction progress in the 30% to 70% range (over one year for 30%; over more years for 70%); track implementation of best management practices using the winter maintenance tool; educate residents about the environmental impacts of salt and provide information on how to reduce their personal salt use. Report reduction in residential/commercial water softening salt use and wastewater chloride monitoring and improvements under BPA 20.4. 

Chloride information: 

  • Once road and de-icing salts wash into surface and groundwater, there is no feasible way to remove the chloride, which means that chloride will continue to accumulate in the environment over time. More than 1 teaspoon of chloride per 5 gallons of water is toxic to fish, aquatic bugs and amphibians. When the road density in a watershed exceeds 18%, water quality problems are likely. In Minnesota there are over 40 surface waters that exceed the water quality standard for chloride and another 50 that are approaching the standard. 75% of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for drinking water. High amounts of salt in groundwater cause drinking water to taste salty, which could restrict its use for drinking, because the cost to remove salt from drinking water using reverse osmosis is expensive. Currently 30% of Twin Cities' drinking water wells have high levels of chloride. Chloride also corrodes road surfaces and bridges and damages reinforcing rods, increasing maintenance and repair costs. Deicing salt accelerates rusting, causing damage to vehicle parts such as brake linings, frames and bumpers.
  • Report chloride water quality monitoring under BPA 19.1.
  • Find additional information related to chloride management at water and wastewater facilities under BPA 20.4. 

Smart Salting Training and Certification: 

  • Partnering with others, the MPCA has created and offers a Smart Salting certification program, which has a section on gravel road maintenance and use of dust suppressants, and a web-based winter maintenance assessment tool to help winter maintenance organizations assess operations, identify opportunities to reduce salt use using proven BMPs, and to track progress, which always includes cost savings. The goal is to maintain performance while reducing salt use and saving cities money.
  • The City of Minneapolis offers a free online Salt Mini-Course for residents to learn how de-icing salt impacts the environment and the best practices to reduce use. 


  • The city of Edina developed a model contract for snow and ice management that embraces best practices to minimize environmental impacts from salt and other chemicals. Property owners can adapt the model contract to suit their needs and to ensure their contractors are protecting Minnesota waters from chloride pollution.
  • See model snow and ice management policies - for city-hired snow and ice management services, that mandate best practices to minimize environmental impacts from sand, chlorides and other chemicals - and for private snow/ice service contractors signing agreements with customers - developed in 2016 by snow and ice management professionals from cities and counties in diverse areas of Minnesota, watershed districts, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association, and other stakeholders. These policies balance public interests including public safety, equipment and material cost, and environmental impact. See also a shorter model Snowplowing Policy from the League of MN Cities.
  • The MPCA partnered with the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, TetraTech, several local cities and watershed organizations to develop a suite of model ordinances that communities can choose to implement. There are several options to consider which are intended to assist with reducing salt pollution.


  • See examples of chloride reduction techniques from the MS4 permit cities of Edina, Bloomington, Plymouth, and Waconia (MPCA, 2020). 
  • The Low Salt. No Salt. Minnesota program was developed by the Hennepin County Chloride Initiative in 2022 to develop a toolbox for LGUs to use in conversations with local residents, businesses, and property managers about best practices related to winter maintenance. 
  • Pervious concrete use in roadways both reduces stormwater infrastructure and salt use, with Shorewood as a national exemplar.
  • The biggest salt-reduction action, which is also the most effective way to prevent/melt ice and snow, is to apply liquid pre-wetting and anti-icing solutions to roads. These brines spread more evenly, stay put and begin working immediately because the salt/other components are already in solution. In Minnesota, cities that have switched to tanker trucks have reduced salt use by up to 70% and have paid back their equipment investment in a year or two.

Note that this salt action was previously an erosion control action (replaced because erosion control is almost always required of cities).

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