Winters here in Canada require extra caution when driving and walking in slippery conditions. Many turn to road salt (typically sodium chloride/NaCl) to make walkways and roads safer for their families and the community. However, we need to acknowledge how our freshwater aquatic ecosystems suffer from excess salts entering the system. High concentrations can disrupt or stunt aquatic creatures’ growth, kill zooplankton, encourage algae growth, and unbalance the male-to-female ratios of amphibian populations.
Here are some excellent articles where you can learn more about the effects of road salt on freshwater aquatic ecosystems:
Safety is, of course, is an essential consideration, but we can do better to protect our aquatic ecosystems, as we are often aggressively over-applying salt. Shovelling snow and using less salt by ensuring no clumps are left behind is a great first step to safeguarding our aquatic ecosystems. There are also other solutions! Shovelling and using sand or volcanic ash for traction, and even beet brine is being utilized. You can find details on these options and other “Salt-ernatives” here: