Salt helps to keep our roads and sidewalks safe during the winter, but this salt often makes its way into our local rivers. While salt use is necessary to increase winter safety, Salt Smart works with municipalities, private companies and residents to use salt effectively while protecting water quality.


Click an image below to view resources specific to you:

Residents & Commuters

Perhaps you'd like to know when to use salt on your driveway, how much to sprinkle on your residential sidewalk, or what those wet stripes are on the road that you see on your drive to work (anti-icing material!) -- we support residents and commuters in being Salt Smart.

Public Road Agencies

Do you drive a plow or supervise winter maintenance road crews? We have resources and Winter Deicing Workshops across multiple counties designed just for you.

Private Contractors, Park Districts and More

Our resource include chloride reduction tools, helpful websites, calculators and educational material to help assist in parking lot and sidewalk maintenance. Due-paying watershed group members have access to free outreach toolkits, including newsletter material and social media messaging.

Why be Salt Smart?

  • Chloride levels are increasing in surface and ground water across Northeastern Illinois
  • The major sources of chlorides in Northeastern Illinois are road salt and to a lesser extent, water softeners
  • Road salt is necessary to maintain safer road and pavement conditions during the winter
  • Once chloride is in the water it is very hard and expensive to remove
  • Chloride impacts aquatic life: poor aquatic life scores dictate more stringent (and thus expensive) stormwater and wastewater regulations
  • Chloride is corrosive to infrastructure such as concrete roads and bridges as well as to the steel in our vehicles and around local business entryways
  • Chloride damages landscaping, from “salt burn” on foliage to increasing soil pH
  • Chloride can burn our pet’s feet, dry and crack them, and cause illness when licked off and ingested
  • There are many well accepted best management practices (BMPs) that communities can adopt that reduce the amount of salt used, while still maintaining levels of safety
  • These BMPs are good for safety, infrastructure, budgets, the environment and even our pets

Chloride Fast Facts

  • Rock salt (and table salt) is made up of sodium and chloride (NaCl) and measured in milligram/liter (mg/L)
  • Uncontaminated groundwater has ~15-50 mg/L of chloride
  • Average summer levels in Illinois is ~100 mg/L
  • Rivers tested in Illinois during the winter have ~300-2000 mg/L
  • 1 teaspoon of salt permanently contaminates 5 gallons of water

Want to learn more?

Public agencies, organizations, and businesses are invited to join our watershed groups and gain full access of our chloride reduction outreach material, discounted workshop rates, and more.