Effects of Sodium Chloride on Drinking Water Reservoirs (Resulting from Roadway De-Icing Operations)

Focus Area

Water Quality/Wetlands


Natural Resources






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Research should include an analysis of current sodium chloride concentrations existing in reservoirs which support a water supply for the general public.  Impact of runoff to these reservoirs and the depth of sodium chloride infiltration in soil where roadways run adjacent to and/or traverse drinking water producing reservoirs.
Research should estimate the  potential contamination based on time and quantity of sodium chloride used in roadway de-icing operations.  Also identify, by probability, areas most likely to contaminate, i.e. runoff, soil infiltration, etc.
Conclusions should consider means to reverse current operations, as well as prior damage, if applicable.

Urgency and Payoff

Promote development of “sensible salting” of roadway systems during winter operations.  Recommend appropriate time to “bare pavement” after precipitation has stopped, based on reduced sodium chloride application.  Research should promote roadway de-icing operations which sustain public well-being and environmental health.

Suggested By

Dan Guy, Maryland State Highway Administration

[email protected]