In cold regions, winter road safety is a major challenge for municipalities and provincial highway transportation agencies. Road salt is widely used to improve winter road conditions, but concerns have been raised about the effects of road salts on the environment. This paper describes a water quality monitoring program designed to measure both background chloride concentrations and the effects of road salt application on stream water quality in four watersheds (Humber River, Don River, Highland Creek, and Morningside tributary of Rouge River) located within the City of Toronto boundary. The effect of road salts on stream water quality was evaluated based on chloride concentration because of its conservative nature. A bilinear correlation was developed to transform measured specific conductance levels in stream water to chloride concentrations. There are no Ontario aquatic fresh water quality guidelines for chloride, but chloride concentrations in almost all the monitored streams in Toronto periodically exceeded chronic and acute chloride threshold levels of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The City of Toronto has been proactive in its efforts to implement management practices to reduce the impact of road salt application on the environment while maintaining safe driving conditions for its road users. Normalized salt application rates in Toronto have been on a gradual declining trend in the last decade from about 0.08 to 0.07 tonnes of salt applied per centimetre of snowfall per kilometre of lane. With public safety in mind, further reductions in salt application rates are being considered to reduce the adverse environmental effects to acceptable limits.

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