Winter Salt Watch
As a state, Michigan is notorious for its use of road salts during the winter months. While road salt is an important tool for keeping our roads clear of snow and ice, it can have detrimental effects to our freshwater ecosystems, roadside vegetation, road infrastructure, and human health.
The study of how road salt is affecting freshwater ecosystems and overall water quality appears to be a new subject of interest. Many areas in the U.S. have not been monitoring the concentrations of road salts in local waterways. Due to this lack of data, and a general misunderstanding of how road salts are affecting waterways, many municipalities do not have regulations and guidance for how to sustainably use road salts. To combat this, and to gain a better understanding of road salt usage in Allegan County, the Allegan Conservation District has partnered with the Isaak Walton League of America (IWLA). Since 2017, the IWLA has been providing volunteers with sample kits to monitor freshwater rivers and streams across the country. Through this community-science based project, the IWLA has collected and managed a nationwide database for road salt concentrations. This year, the Allegan Conservation District is recruiting volunteers to collect water samples and monitor road salt concentrations in the Kalamazoo and Rabbit Rivers.
Road Salt Volunteers collect water sample near Bridge Road in Allegan. Photo courtesy of Raecale Stull.
The Isaak Walton League provides free test kits to volunteers. Using a test kit, this volunteer has recorded chloride levels of 49 ppm(mg/L). Chloride can start harming freshwater ecosystems at 100 ppm(mg/L).
The Allegan Conservation District wants to gain a better understanding of how the larger towns in Allegan County are using road salts, what areas of the rivers have the highest chloride concentrations, and if natural areas (like the Allegan State Game Area), are being effected by road salt. To test this, volunteers are collecting water samples upstream and downstream of large towns and the Allegan State Game Area in Allegan County. Check out the map below to see all 14 sampling locations. Volunteers are choosing which sample site(s) they would like to monitor, and are being asked to collect monthly samples from December 2021 through November 2022. Volunteers may collect the samples on their own schedule.
Don't be Salty, be a Volunteer!
Sign up to volunteer at one or more of our sampling sites! We are asking that volunteers commit to collecting water samples once a month, for at least three months. Volunteers may choose if they would like to collect samples from December-February, March-May, June-August, or September-November.