Your Guide to Dealing With Snow and Ice Without Compromising Water Quality


Winter can bring some great outdoor activities, such as sledding, skiing, and skating, but they all depend on ice and snow. Dealing with snow means shoveling layers of the stuff off slippery sidewalks and driveways. There are many products and gadgets available to help us in this task, but some are kinder to our water supply than others. Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues and four top tips for dealing with snow and ice in a more responsible way. Your Guide to Dealing With Snow and Ice Without Compromising Water Quality

Water Contamination: 

Many people don’t realize that their decisions at this time of year can have a major effect on our water supply. A lot of products, including salts and deicers make our snow clearing jobs easier, but they melt the snow and ice and then are carried into the storm drains. These additional chemicals and salts can cause a number of adverse effects, such as reducing oxygen in waterways, increasing sediment levels, and increasing toxicity levels. This is water that we ultimately us in our homes, so it makes good sense to take better care of it. 

Shovel Early and Shovel Often: 

This old adage remains true; the best defense against the buildup of snow is a good offense. If you shovel early and shovel often you will find that you need less salt. Using de-icing products is next to useless on anything except thin layers of snow and ice. 

Limit the Use of Salt, Sand, and De-icers 

These materials cause a lot of environmental damage to our waterways, so limit their use as much as possible. It is recommended that rock salt is applied at a ratio of a handful per square yard and using any more doesn’t make it work better or faster. If deicers are used, give them time to work and follow the instructions carefully before applying more. A hand held spreader can help to deliver consistent amounts and applying anti-icing agents before snowfall occurs is a sound strategy. If you find that you have a layer of de-icer left when the snow and ice has melted you used too much. 

Providing Traction 

You can use sand and even kitty litter to provide traction to a surface, but they won’t melt snow. Unfortunately, these materials will clog up sewers when they are washed away. One environmentally friendly alternative is to use cracked corn instead.  If you have salt, sand or other traction materials left behind, sweep it up and dispose of it safely to avoid it being washed into the drain. 

Friendlier De-icing Solutions 

There are some great alternative de-icing options that can be used, such as calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), sugar beet juice mixed with salt or alfalfa meal. CMA can be found in hardware stores, and it is biodegradable. Sugar beet juice can be effective at lower temperatures, and you can apply it using a spray bottle. Alfalfa meal is a dry and grainy fertilizer found at farm supply stores, it contains nitrogen, but it is great at providing traction and kinder to the environment than sand or rock salt. 

If you are concerned about the quality of your water supply, consult a local water treatment professional. There are water softeners/water conditioners and filtration systems to deal with all kinds of issues. Always ensure that your chosen professional is fully WQA certified to meet and even exceed water industry standards.

About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.

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