Summer chloride concentrations have increased in Starkweather Creek, an urbanized stream on the east side of Madison, over the past three decades.

Data Source: USGS (East Branch  and West Branch stations) and WDNR. 


In the winter, chloride concentrations can become toxic (>395 mg/L). In 2016, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) confirmed that both the East and West branches were polluted by chloride and added the creeks to the impaired waters list.

Starkweather Creek Path at East Washington Ave. Photo By: Sarah Fuller

In February 2020, the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission was awarded a DNR River Planning Grant to develop a Chloride Management Plan for the Starkweather Creek watershed. This project seeks to comprehensively address chloride use, both in winter deicing and in water softening. Throughout 2020, we are gathering chloride use data, monitoring chloride concentrations in surface water, and developing project goals and objectives. The resulting Chloride Management Plan will provide a path forward to improve efficient salt use in the watershed. The plan will focus on promoting the use of Salt Wise practices,  salt use tracking, and chloride monitoring.

The Steering Committee, representing a variety of stakeholders within the watershed, are helping to develop, support, and implement this work. Lance Green, Co-Chair of the Friends of Starkweather Creek, is excited to be involved, saying that “this project is an important step in addressing our concerns regarding increasing chloride concentrations in Starkweather Creek and our drinking water.”

In addition to the Friends of Starkweather Creek, Wisconsin Salt Wise, City of Madison, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, Public Health Madison and Dane County, The Bruce Company, Madison College, American Family Insurance, and WDNR are also key members of the Steering Committee.

Learn more about how salt impacts our water resources here.