Snow removal

Learn more about snow and ice clearing standards, and how to report uncleared sidewalks, trails and roads.

On this page

  1. Road plowing standards
  2. Report a road plowing issue
  3. Snow events and street parking bans
  4. Sidewalk clearing standards
  5. Report an uncleared sidewalk
  6. Trail and bike lane clearing standards 
  7. Snow clearance operations study
  8. Salt management and Smart About Salt program

Road plowing standards

Following Ontario’s Municipal Act, we begin clearing roads when snow or ice reaches the required level.

It takes 6 to 24 hours to complete all plow routes after snow or ice has stopped falling.

Watch: ride along with a plow driver in Waterloo (2:54)

We share maintenance with the City of Kitchener on border roads. We clear regional roads (PDF) on behalf of the Region of Waterloo.

Priorities and service times:

Our staff work around the clock to clear the roads and provide a safe commute for you. Our service time is measured once the snow stops falling. If the snow begins within the same snowstorm, the service time resets.

  1. Major arterial, such as King Street: 6 hours to clear after 5cm accumulation
  2. Major collector/bus route, such as Regina Street: 12 hours to clear after 8cm accumulation
  3. Residential street, such as Northlake Drive: 16 hours to clear after 8cm accumulation
  4. Minor residential and culs-de-sac, such as Hillside Street or Beckwith Court: 24 hours to clear after 10cm accumulation

Use our street priority map to check the designation of your street.

Report a plowing issue

Snow plowed from road onto your property

Snow plowed onto your driveway from the road by is called a windrow. It is your responsibility to clear the snow left by the plows on your driveway. We understand that it can be frustrating to clear this additional snow, however the city has to maintain the priority of clearing the roads. To report a unusually large windrows, contact us at 519-886-2310. 

Damage to property from a plow

If your property was damaged by a city snow plow, contact us at 519-886-2310. Damage is documented and repaired in the spring.

Delays in cul-de-sac clearing

Image of a cul-de-sac and the radius elbow corner showing what the snow plow cannot reachIf you live in a cul-de-sac, plows have a difficult time reaching into corner and the cul-de-sac itself. 

We have partnered with a third-party company to clear snow on identified streets on our behalf. Residents may notice large snow blowers that do not have city logos, and the clearing of the cul-de-sac may not necessarily occur simultaneously with closeby streets.

Please do not park your cars in the areas cleared by snowblowers during or after a snowfall, as it makes snow clearing more difficult.

Note that our crews sometimes load snow in the middle of cul-de-sac or parts of radius corners throughout the winter to avoid the cost of removing it from your neighbourhood.

How you can help

  • give snow plows room on the roads
  • keep cars off the street
  • parking is prohibited on any city street at any time (day or night) when the city declares a snow event
  • clear snow from fire hydrants on your property when possible
  • pile snow from your sidewalk on your property and not on the road
  • ensure that intake and exhaust vents for your furnace are clear of snow
  • place garbage/recycling at the end of your shovelled driveway and away from the roadway
  • keep your children off the snowbanks near the road

Snow events and street parking bans

When credible weather forecasts predict significant snowfall, a snow event is declared. During these periods parking is prohibited on city streets. We aim to clear all city streets within 24 hours when a snow event occurs.

Check our service alerts page to see if a snow-related street parking ban is currently in effect.

Sidewalk clearing standards

In Waterloo, responsibility for sidewalk clearance is shared. In general:

  • the city clears sidewalks not connected to a residence or business
  • property owners clear sidewalks connected to a residence or business

Use our sidewalk map to check if a specific sidewalk is the city or property owner's responsibility. 

Per the snow removal bylaw, property owners must clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snow or ice storm. 

We clear city-maintained sidewalks using standards set out in the Municipal Act, which generally require clearance with 48 hours of the end of a snow or ice storm. Areas with increased mobility needs are given priority after a snow event. 

Report an uncleared sidewalk

If a private sidewalk is not cleared after the 24 hour period:

  • enter the address into our online reporting system to dispatch on officer (registration required)
  • contact municipal enforcement at 519-747-6280 during business hours

If a city sidewalk is not cleared after the 48 hour period:

Trail and bike lane clearing

Trail clearance begins on commuter trails with a minimum of 5 cm of snow. Once this network is cleared, other winter-maintained trail links and park pathways are plowed. Service is usually completed 48 hours after snow has stopped falling. Use our snow clearance map to check if a trail is maintained through the winter.

On-road bike lanes are cleared of snow and ice per Ontario regulation 239/02, which sets out maintenance standards for roads. Note that minimum service times for bike lanes may differ from the vehicle portion of the roadway. 

Snow clearance operations study

The City of Waterloo received funding from the Ontario's Audit and Accountability Fund to review winter control operations.

The review had three key objectives:

  • identify service delivery costs savings and improved efficiencies
  • identify innovation opportunities to modernize service delivery
  • demonstrate how Lean Six Sigma methodologies could help drive improvement

The full report (PDF) was received by city council on November 18, 2019.

Salt management and Smart About Salt program

We apply liquid salt brine onto the roadway before a snow event to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement. This makes snow removal more efficient because less salt is required to return roads to bare pavement.

Through several initiatives under our salt management program, our winter maintenance contributes to a healthy environment for our residents.

Find out what you can do to be smart about salt on your property.