It’s every municipality for itself.

That’s the message, at least, when it comes to the rock salt used to melt ice and snow on local roadways. 

Some towns, like Brookfield, have already used their entire annual supplies and are trawling back channels to find someone, anyone, who has salt stockpiled. Those companies are few and far between right now, and anyone buying salt on the volatile open market is paying a huge premium and trying to swing the best deal possible.

“I can only imagine that this is like trading in pork futures,” said Brookfield Public Works Director Dan Kaup, who is ordering his crews to conserve as much salt as they can from here on out.

Brookfield exhausted its state-supplied salt stockpile of 1,300 tons about a week and a half ago, said Kaup. Since then, he has been calling suppliers throughout the region, and almost no one has any salt left. The state of Illinois and city of Chicago have gobbled up most of the salt, other shipments have been delayed by harsh winter weather.

“The issue is there’s no more material,” said Kaup. “I’ve called 25 vendors; no one has a line on any more salt. Now we’re getting it in dribs and drabs from mom-and-pop places.”

Brookfield was able to finagle about 100 tons of salt recently from a place called Chicago Salt, but it cost the village $170 per ton, compared to the $53 per ton the village paid for its state-supplied salt. And that doesn’t include the cost of either picking it up at the company’s South Side location or hiring a company to deliver it to Brookfield. The company, which bags salt for the retail market, doesn’t have the ability to transport large bulk supplies to municipalities.

Kaup said Brookfield is lining up another 250 tons at about $140 per ton from another company, a stockpile he hopes to get mid-week.

The low stockpile means Brookfield is conserving as much as it can. Salting is limited to bridges, intersections and arterial streets, said Kaup. They are also mixing the salt with sand to make the product go further. That’s not ideal, because it means the village will have to go out in the spring to clear the sand out of the catch basins.

“We’re hoping this will take us through the season, using conservation measures,” said Kaup, “but it might not be the case.”

Riverside and North Riverside haven’t gone through their state-supplied salt allotments yet, but conservation efforts are under way there as well.

Edward Bailey, Riverside’s public works director, said the village is down to about 75 tons of salt, but his final state delivery of 200 tons has been ordered. It’s just unclear when exactly it will arrive. A couple of weeks ago, Riverside’s salt supply got so low that Bailey called North Riverside for a “loan” of two dump trucks’ worth.

With the impending delivery, Riverside will have used 600 tons of salt in 2013-14.

“Delivery [from the state] has not been as dependable as it usually is,” said Bailey.

Even after that shipment comes in, the village will be salting cautiously throughout the rest of the winter.

“Right now we’ve been using salt very sparingly,” he said. “We’re only salting main streets and near schools. We’re not salting residential areas. We have to do our best to eke out the supply with the weather we’ve been having.”

With 200 tons left in North Riverside’s salt bin, Public Works Director Tim Kutt said he believes that should be enough to get through the rest of the winter. But you never know.

“If we get a February like this past January, that last couple of weeks [of winter] could be tough,” said Kutt, who added that, including the amount left in his salt bin, North Riverside has gone through 840 tons of salt this winter.