December 2022
Backyard Conversation
Connecting Community + Conservation
Welcome to the Backyard Conversation! Each month we'll be sharing a conservation topic from a more personal viewpoint for our readers. To make this successful, I want to hear feedback from you! I'll include a poll at the bottom regarding our topic and share links to some of our partner organizations with similar messages. So, let's get to it!
Be Salt Smart for Water Quality
Winter Water Quality Tips
Road salt and deicers are necessary for public safety in the winter. Without it, we wouldn't be able to safely drive or walk! However, many freshwater systems across the country are becoming contaminated with chloride. Chloride comes from road salt and deicers and reaches peak concentrations in the winter and early spring = same time as salt usage peaks. Other sources of chloride include water softeners, fertilizers (like Potassium Chloride - KCl), and dust suppressants.
How Road Salt Affects Water Quality
Just one teaspoon of salt contains enough chloride to pollute five gallons of water. The chloride from salt is virtually impossible to remove from a waterbody once it is there. This means that our waterways are becoming saltier over time. This is a problem because many aquatic species are very sensitive to salt concentrations (aka salinity) and may not survive in saltier conditions. It's important that we take steps to reduce our salt usage in order to reduce the salt runoff at home that enters our waterways.

Besides home, the State of Ohio Department of Transportation has increased the use of salt brine before a storm in place of traditional road salt. Salt brine is a diluted liquid form of road salt that works faster, saves money, and stays in place compared to road salt.
Practice These Salt Smart Tips
First, remove the snow before applying salt:
  • Shovel, Scrape, Repeat. Clear the snow and scrape or chisel away at the ice. Avoid ice buildup by shoveling early and often. Redirect downspouts away from hard surfaces.
  • Don't Let the Snow Get Compacted. Don’t wait until the storm is over: Try to shovel once or twice before the snow piles up and becomes compacted. Compacted snow is heavy, slippery and hard to separate from the pavement.
  • Choose the Right Tool. There are many kinds of snow and ice, so don’t limit yourself to just one tool for removing them. Your local hardware store likely carries a variety of push shovels, scoop shovels, ice chisels and ice scrapers. If you need to use salt or other deicer, keep the follow tips in mind.

When and how to use salt:
  • When to Use Salt. If you must apply salt or deicer, do it after the storm is finished. Clear off any loose and/or compacted snow first. Apply the product on ice only; do not apply it on dry pavement.
  • Use the Right Salt for the Right Temperatures. Temperatures often drop after a snowstorm, so double-check the label on your salt or deicer product to make sure it will work before you apply it. Road salt (NaCl) doesn’t work below 15°F. If it’s a warm day and the sidewalk is wet, don’t use any deicers! The sun is already doing the job for you, and throwing salt onto the ice isn’t going to hurry the process; it’s just going to send deicer down the storm drains.
  • A Little Goes a Long Way. More salt does not equal faster melting — just more pollution and wasted money. Shoot for a 3-inch spread between salt granules. For $10–$20, a hand spreader can make the job easier and more accurate. To be more exact, try to apply no more than 1 pound per 250 square feet of pavement. (Tip: A regular-size coffee mug typically holds about 1 pound of salt.)
  • Too Cold for Salt? Use Sand. Sprinkle just enough sand to provide traction on walkways when it's really, really cold - too cold for regular road salt to work. Sweep up any excess after the ice melts and dispose of in the trash or reuse so that it doesn’t get carried into storm drains. Remember, sand pollutes too. Don't bother mixing sand and salt together. Sand is useless in wet, melting snow and slush. Save the sand for when it's really, really cold.

Check out this salt application calculator from the Wisconsin Salt Wise Program! Check out the comparison chart below of the different kinds of salts and deicers.
be salt smart road salt deicier
salt - too much
Too much! Large clumps are not optimal. Spread it out.
Just enough! A little bit goes a long way. Spread it out.
Local Property Owner's Association Installs Native Plant Garden
Working Together to Preserve the Natural Beauty
front entrance
Windrush Creek Property Owners Association (POA) was established in 1973 as a community of residents with a common goal - to preserve the area's natural beauty. Common areas and a pond were established. Easements were instituted around the neighborhood so all residents could walk throughout the community and enjoy its beauty. Scenic preserves were designated to enhance the visual appearance and amenities of Windrush Creek.

Now, nearly 50 years later, the residents of Windrush Creek POA have taken a bold step to naturalize the front entrances of their neighborhood. Thanks to a donation by the resident, Vivian Davis, their homeowners' association was able to hire Michael Keeler of Ohio Native Concepts LLC to design and create two native plant beds at Brooksong Way and Windrush Creek entrances.

Information and photos were provided to Franklin Soil and Water by Laura Davis, Trustee of the Windrush Creek POA. This is a wonderful example of where beautification meets natural resource planning! Franklin Soil and Water hopes that more property owners, managers and organizations are inspired by the Windrush Creek project to implement more native plants and gardens throughout Central Ohio neighborhoods.
Question of the Month
Do you salt your own sidewalk or driveway or parking spaces at home?
Yes, we do it ourselves
No, we pay someone to do it
No, property management does it
N/A - I don't have a driveway/sidewalk/parking spaces
Here are the full results from November's poll asking if readers have a septic system at home:

No, I have city/local sewer service


I don't know
Get the Scoop from Nature Scoop

Want to learn more about backyard conservation, pollinators, and more? Read the latest edition of the monthly newsletter Nature Scoop by Toni Stahl, National Wildlife Federation Habitat Ambassador.

Nature Scoop December 2022 - Save Birds & Bobcats; Save Monarch's Winter Mexican Habitat and More!

Learn more at and on Twitter @NatureScoopOhio.
Mikaela Mohr
Outreach Program Specialist
Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District
1404 Goodale Blvd. Suite 100, Columbus, OH 43212 
p: 614-486-9613 | e:
Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District | (614) 486-9613 |