Study of De-icing Salt Accumulation and Transport Through a Watershed

Principal Investigator(s):

William Herb, Research Associate, SAFHL - Hydraulic Lab


  • Heinz Stefan, Former Researcher, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering

Project summary:

The accumulation of chloride in surface waters and groundwater from road deicing and other sources is a growing problem in northern cities of the U.S., including the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. To inform mitigation efforts, the transport of chloride in surface waters of a metro-area watershed (Lake McCarrons) was studied in this project to characterize chloride transport by surface runoff, the residence time of chloride in surface water, and how variations in weather influence chloride transport and accumulation processes. Monitoring work over three winters showed that the residence time of chloride in small, sewered watersheds varied from 14 to 26 days, depending on winter weather conditions, with 37 to 63 percent of chloride applied as de-icers exported in snowmelt and rainfall surface runoff. In contrast, a monitored highway ditch exported less than five percent of chloride applied to the adjacent road. Stormwater detention ponds were found to act as temporary storage for chloride, with persistent layers of high chloride content at the bottom. Chloride monitoring data and runoff simulations were used to explore the possibility of snowmelt capture as a chloride pollution mitigation strategy. The study found that capturing snowmelt runoff close to source areas (roads and parking lots) yields the highest chloride concentrations and removal potential.

Project details:

Reports or Products: