The snow and ice season is here. Before liberally sprinkling salt on sidewalks and driveways, remember all of that salt doesn't just disappear - it melts into nearby creeks, wetlands and lakes. Once in the water, there's no cost-effective way to remove salt. And, it doesn't take much salt to cause problems in lakes and streams. As little as one teaspoon of salt per five gallons of water can harm aquatic life.

It's possible to reduce salt use while still maintaining safe surfaces in the winter. Follow these tips to protect yourself against slips and falls while being mindful of the environment:

  • Apply a liquid de-icer before snowstorms to prevent snow an dice buildup and make shoveling easier. Want to make your own? Mix two cups of hot water with one cup of salt, then apply.
  • During a storm, get out early to shovel or snow blow. Keep up with the snowfall and you may need less salt.
  • Don't over apply. More salt doesn't equal more melting. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet. One pound of salt is equivalent to a heaping 12-ounce coffee cup. Hint: If salt crystals are visible after the surface has dried, you've used too much salt. Go easier next time.
  • Temperatures matter. Most salts stop working when the pavement temperature is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, use a small amount of sand for traction.
  • Sweep up. Salt and sand on dry pavement aren't doing anything and will be washed into wetlands and lakes. Sweep up the extra and reuse it, or throw it in the trash.
  • Do you live in a townhome, apartment or condo? If so, talk to your association about encouraging your snow removal contractor to use less salt.

Information is from the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District.