Salt and water quality

dump truck spreading salt on snowy road

Minnesota waters need a low-salt diet

Doctors tell us to stick to a low-salt diet. Our lakes and streams should follow the same advice. When winter comes and snow and ice build up on Minnesota roads, parking lots, and sidewalks, one of the most common reactions is to apply salt, which contains chloride, a water pollutant.

Salt pollutes. When snow and ice melts, the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. It takes only one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no way to remove the chloride, and at high concentrations, chloride can harm fish and plant life. Less is more when it comes to applying road salt. Learn more about chloride pollution here.

Looking to spread the word? Let residents and organizations in your area know about the dangers of excess salt with this handy, printable PDF icon Salt pollutes postcard

How can individuals help protect local lakes and streams? Visit our Tips for Homeowners page for easy steps you can take to reduce salt.

Find salt application training
for winter maintenance professionals

Winter Maintenance Assessment tool (WMAt)

This new web‐based tool will help winter maintenance organizations assess operations, identify opportunities to reduce salt use using proven BMPs and track progress. The goal is to maintain performance while reducing salt use and saving money.

What is MPCA doing to address this important issue?

The MPCA partnered with local and state experts in the seven-county metro area and created a plan for effectively managing salt use to protect our water resources while maintaining public needs. Learn more about the Twin Cities Metro Area chloride plan on its web page.

Review these documents and learn more:

Twin Cities metro area chloride monitoring results

This map shows only waters that have been assessed for chloride by the MPCA in the 7-county metro area. Waterbodies without a colored label do not have chloride data available.

View larger map



Salt's impact on Minnesota lakes