Testing has shown a dramatic increase in the sodium and chloride (components of
salt) levels in Well 14, a major source of water for Madison’s near west side.
The 56-year- old well contributes more than 750 million gallons into the
distribution system each year.
Since 2000, the well’s chloride levels alone have doubled, according to the City of
Chloride, the component of salt that gives it its “salty” taste, has been measured
at the well at 125 mg/L, which is 50 percent of the Environmental Protection
Agency’s (EPA) secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL).
At this rate, Madison Water Utility projects that chloride levels will exceed the SMCL
in about 17 years, making the water unpalatable, due to its salty taste.
Where did all of that salt come from?
Each winter, about 140 tons of road salt is dumped on the two-mile stretch of
University Avenue between Segoe Road and Allen Boulevard, in an effort to help
But residents and business owners using salt to clear driveways, sidewalks, roads,
and parking lots may also be contributing to the problem.
However, even if salt use was discontinued in that area tomorrow, the City of
Madison predicts that sodium chloride levels would still continue to rise, due to the
reservoir in the ground.
So what can be done to reduce it?
Madison Water Utility is still vetting its options — from rebuilding part of the well in
order to draw water from deeper in the aquifer to on-site desalination treatment to
abandoning the well altogether.
Meanwhile, several organizations have joined forces to create WI Salt Wise, a
partnership geared toward educating the public about how it can help reduce the
overuse of salt.
Some of the tips it has provided include:
Shovel: Clear walkways and other areas before snow turns into ice.
Scatter: Scatter salt instead of dumping concentrated amounts in just one
area. One coffee mug of salt can treat a 20-foot driveway or 10 sidewalk
Sand: If the pavement temperature drops below 15 degrees, salt won’t
work. Consider using sand for traction.
For more tips, check out this press kit from WI Salt Wise.