Adaptive Management to Improve De-Icing Operations


Lawrence Baker, Bruce Wilson, Doug Klimbal, Dan Furuta, Melissa Friese, Jacob Bierman

March 2021

Report no. MnDOT 2021-07

Road de-icing is a major cause of chloride impairment in Minnesota's urban waters. The goal of our study was to develop an adaptive management (AM) strategy to reduce chloride impacts caused by de-icing operations. The AM process was informed by our analysis of chloride movement in a residential watershed, providing feedback to the street department of our collaborator, the City of Edina. A key finding was that most the chloride movement occurred during a small number of events, with half of annual chloride movement occurring in less than 50 hours during each of the two years of study. This observation means that targeting these events might be a more effective way to reduce chloride impacts than more generalized approaches. We also found that a significant amount of chloride added to streets during de-icing accumulated in roadside snow piles, likely contributing to groundwater contamination. To address this concern, we developed a spreadsheet tool to estimate steady-state (long-term) chloride concentrations in groundwater. Scenario analyses indicated that groundwater chloride levels in highly urbanized watersheds would eventually exceed water quality standards. We developed a second model, intended for use by urban planners, to estimate the impact of changing the percentage of salted impervious surface on chloride movement in re-developed watersheds.

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