Salt in our freshwater systems

The issue of rising chloride (salt) levels, and the related impacts on Ontario’s lakes and rivers is an important topic of concern for FOCA.

Salt is accumulating in the environment and poses an emerging threat both to ecosystems and human health. Once introduced into an ecosystem, salt can become a persistent problem, since there are really no biological processes that will remove it. Reducing  the amount of salt entering waterways is an important way to protect our aquatic ecosystems.

Other Resources:

February 14, 2022 – Salt contamination of Lake Simcoe a frightening warning about highway expansion – Lake Simcoe is on a trajectory to reach toxic levels of salt in 37 years if current patterns (Toronto Star)

December 21, 2021 – Road Salt in Cities Shows Links to Saltier Water ( – “Separate studies in Ontario and Ohio suggest that increasing urbanization over the past 40 years has been a driving factor in freshwater rivers getting saltier.”

November 2021 – Salt Impacts on Lakes: webinar from New Hampshire Lakes: (Homeowner tips start around minute 42:30 of the recording.)
Over-salting our Lakes: Why we Need to Reduce Road Salt Use (download PDF, 42 pages)– a slide presentation by Dr. Shelley Arnott, Biology Department, Queen’s University. (FOCA 2020 Spring Seminar)

The Smart About Salt Council is a not-for-profit organization which offers training to improve winter salting practices and recognizes industry leaders through certification.  They provide resources to help ensure that the right de-icing product is used, at the right time and in the right way. Their mission is to protect freshwater from winter salt applied on facilities.

Related News

April 1, 2021 – Study Shows Winter Road Salt Poses Year-Round Threat to Aquatic Life (WaterCanada)

June 19, 2019 – Chloride maps show devastating effects of road salt. Yes, even in summer (WWF)

January 2019 – Shaking Ontario’s Addiction to Road Salt (Auditor General of Ontario)

December 24, 2018 –The price of salt: How road salts are affecting our Great Lakes (Ontario Waterkeeper)

December 11, 2018 – How Road Salt Harms the Environment (Columbia University)

October 25, 2018 – Setting a Provincial Water Quality Objective for Chlorides (a letter from CELA to MECP)

November 30, 2017 – Time to embrace a difficult conversation – reducing road salts use in Ontario (CELA)

April 12, 2017 – Road salt poses threat to freshwater lakes in parts of North America: study (CP)

May 2011 – Increasing chloride concentrations in Lake Simcoe and its tributaries (Research Gate, Winter et al)

Terry ReesSalt in our freshwater systems