Sustainability

Salting Our Icy Roads Could Affect Our Drinking Water

Salting roads is a very common way to get rid of ice. It’s a great safety measure to take — but it may actually be affecting our drinking water. A new study reported that freshwater salinity and alkalization have increased significantly in the U.S.

Researchers have studied 5 decades of stream water data and have found that salt levels have increased by 37% and alkalization increased by 90% in major waterways like the Hudson, Mississippi, and Potomac rivers. While this can be bad for wildlife, researchers also fear it affects people who drink it as well.

High salt-concentrated water can corrode pipes, and cause lead to enter the water supply. Researchers say, in order to lessen environmental damage, sewage drainage systems need to be better designed or cities need to install a system of sensors on roads and pavements so salting can be better targeted.

Salt is typically used on roads to lower the melting point of ice, so it works great on those snowy days. But after the snow melts, it accumulates in the soil, ground water and drainage system, taking decades to get flushed out. Even the smallest, insignificant-seeming systems can end up affecting the environment in a big way.