Environmental Sustainability,  Quality of Life Benefits of Transportation,  Wisconsin

Saving Salt, Saving Money

Wisconsin’s beautiful freshwater lakes and rivers attract tourists, support the economy and enhance the state’s quality of life. Like our roads, though, winter tends to cover them in ice. To clear pavement while protecting sport fish and other aquatic life, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation leads efforts to use salt efficiently.

When rock salt is spread on highways to prevent icing, a large amount of it bounces off the road surface or is blown away by wind or traffic before it can dissolve and begin to work. This waste salt is often carried directly into watersheds. And it’s expensive — wasted salt is wasted money.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is working with counties across the state to use brine, a solution of rock salt in water, to treat highways more effectively. WisDOT purchased high-capacity brine makers for more than a dozen counties, and 45 of the state’s 72 counties optimize their snowplow routes by using the department’s GIS technologies.

These efforts are saving millions of pounds of salt. During the 2017-2018 winter, the department saved counties from using about 108 million pounds, which meant spending $4 million less while protecting cold-water trout streams, pristine northern lakes, and other treasured fishing spots and recreational beaches across the state.