Reducing over-reliance on salt


‘There is a global push from an environmental perspective to hold the snow & ice management industry accountable for using salt more efficiently. Those who start now win.’
By Phill Sexton
Over the past 3 years, SIMA has helped lead an academic research study to help us understand best practice application methods and more precisely begin to calculate rates of salt that are both effective and efficient for facility-focused snow management – the initial results of the study are now available to members here. In partnership with Landscape Ontario and the University of Waterloo, SIMA has committed to an even broader leadership role moving forward. Over the next few seasons, the efforts of SIMA and our research partners will help identify how much salt the industry is currently applying, while deepening our understanding of realistic methods for salt reduction without impacting service.
As an industry, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental effects of salt. The economic impacts have become clearer, particularly after last season’s challenges with supply and demand for salt. These recent fluctuations, and their significant risk potential for snow professionals, are symptoms of an over-reliance on salt within our industry. Yes, salt will always be an essential component in the snow management toolbox, but it can’t be the only one.
Societal perspectives have shifted over the past 15-20 years. Contractors are faced with higher-than-ever expectations for performing the work, while being forced to absorb more and more liability. These undeniable trends have led to a dramatic increase in salt output within our industry over time. Like it or not, these increases can have negative effects on the environment, particularly fresh water resources, which we as a human race rely on more than any other resource on earth. The current trends for salt usage in our industry will not continue without scrutiny.
There is a global push from an environmental perspective to hold the snow & ice management industry accountable for using salt more efficiently. Those who start now win. Those who continue to turn a blind eye and decide it’s ‘just a phase’ will eventually lose…. lose their credibility, lose their clients, and lose their business.
In this next phase of SIMA’s salt research we are working with a small group of members and the University of Waterloo to validate practical application rates by contractors, and then we will compare the results with those documented in a control study at the University of Waterloo. SIMA is also employing help from other research experts to lead a separate study for benchmarking current salt usage to compare with future usage as an industry. SIMA’s goal is to further develop and refine efficient application rates that can be more easily understood and implemented by snow professionals.
Ultimately we are working towards developing a standardized method for determining the most efficient salt application rates that provide the least impact to the environment, are defensible against slip and fall liability, and mitigate the risk of over-reliance on salt for business continuity.
Here are two simple ways you can help and take action:

This article was updated July 27, 2017, to ensure accuracy and relevancy.