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Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

Water Transformation Part 10: The Benefits

Posted by Robert Zimmerman

4/15/15 1:01 PM

PREVIOUS POST: Water Transformation Part 9 - Restored Streams and Green  Infrastructure

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CRWA Releases 2014 Charles River Water Quality Report

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

4/8/15 5:40 PM

Water Transformation Part 9: Restored Streams and Green Infrastructure

Posted by Robert Zimmerman

4/6/15 4:51 PM

PREVIOUS POST: Water Transformation Part 8 - Distributed Wastewater Treatment  Plants

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Water Transformation Part 8: Distributed Wastewater Treatment Plants

Posted by Robert Zimmerman

3/30/15 1:30 PM

PREVIOUS POST: Water Transformation Part 7 - Beginning the How

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Water Transformation Part 7: Beginning the How

Posted by Robert Zimmerman

3/20/15 3:20 PM

PREVIOUS POST: Water Transformation Part 6: Configuring Transformation II  


Back Bay Charles River - Charles River Watershed AssociationCRWA began what we call our Urban Smart Sewer project in the fall of 2013 with a three year grant from the Scherman Foundation's Rosin Fund, and support from Eaglemere Foundation. Our first orders of business were to discover whether the distributed wastewater treatment plants we had investigated with our Littleton, MA, Smart Sewer project could be sited in dense urban confines. To help us, we put together a technical advisory committee (TAC) made up of principals from federal, state, and Boston agencies.

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Water Transformation Part 3: Diversity

Posted by Robert Zimmerman

2/16/15 5:55 PM

PREVIOUS POST: Water Transformation Part 2 - Wasteful and Inflexible  

Water Transformation Part 3: Diversity - Charles River Watershed AssociationIn Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I contrasted forests as water systems to our engineered water systems. I identified three important fundamental differences in the way forests deal with water when compared with the way we engineer water:

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5 Methods Used by CRWA to Monitor the Charles River

Posted by Julie Dyer Wood

9/18/14 10:08 AM

The Charles, like any natural environment, is a complex, interconnected, living, changing system. At CRWA, our work is guided by the philosophy that we cannot address and manage problems in the Charles without understanding them. Collecting and analyzing our own data is a critical piece of this process and the backbone of CRWA’s advocacy and design work. Whether monitoring is conducted by staff, interns or volunteers, everyone follows strict monitoring protocols to ensure we collect the most accurate data available. In celebration of World Water Monitoring Day, read on to learn more about five ways CRWA monitors the Charles every day. 

READ: CRWA's Volunteer Monitoring Program 2013 Final Report

  1. Basic Physical Parameters – Every month, CRWA volunteers collect temperature and depth readings at 35 sites along the Charles, and these relatively simple parameters can tell us a lot about the river. Temperature (pictured top right) is very important for biological processes and can indicate pollution sources or unusual conditions. Depth helps us track the relative river flow across the seasons and over the years. CRWA has been monitoring these parameters since 1995, building the most comprehensive dataset available on the Charles River

    Temperature_sampling
  2. Sample Collection and Analysis – CRWA volunteers and staff regularly collect water samples, which are then taken to external laboratories for analysis. CRWA collects samples for bacteria all along the river on a monthly basis throughout the year and on a weekly basis in the Lower Basin (downstream from Watertown Dam) during the summer and fall, as part of our summertime Water Quality Notification Program. E.coli bacteria concentrations indicate whether sewage is likely present in the river. Four times a year, volunteers also collect samples which are analyzed for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), total suspended solids, and chlorophyll a. 

  3. Biological Monitoring – A new addition to CRWA’s field science program in 2013, benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring helps characterize the general ecosystem health of a stream section. This sampling methodology is limited to wadeable sections of streams and rivers and involves the collection and identification of small bugs and other organisms living in the stream sediment and vegetation. By inventorying these critters, which have varying abilities to tolerate pollution (highly sensitive to very tolerant); we can learn a great deal about the water quality. Unlike fish, these organisms cannot move out of degraded areas, therefore a river stretch with only highly pollutant tolerant organisms likely has very poor water quality. 

  4. Hotspot / Investigative / Response Monitoring – CRWA also regularly monitors the river in response to possible pollution sources. This may involve follow up sampling after a high result from one of our regular monitoring sites, pipe or outflow monitoring, or just responding to the scene of a reported issue and conducting a visual survey or “sniff” test.  

    Probe_sampling
  5. Cyanobacteria Monitoring – A relatively recent issue in the Charles, cyanobactera (a.k.a. blue-green algae) can pose a threat to humans and other mammals when they are present in large concentrations or “blooms”. Cyanobacteria produce cyanotoxins which can cause minor to serious reactions in humans and can be fatal to dogs that drink the water. Summertime blooms have become relatively common in the Charles River Lower Basin. CRWA uses an optical probe (pictured bottom right) to look for pigments unique to cyanobacteria and also collects samples which are viewed under a microscope so species can be identified and counted. CRWA also works with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and surrounding communities to notify the public in the event of a bloom.  


For more information on CRWA's monitoring methods, download this brief summary of CRWA‘s 2013 Volunteer Monitoring Program Annual Data Report to learn more about river quality in 2013.

Want to get involved in protecting the health of the Charles River? Become a CRWA Citizen Scientist and help us monitor water quality! To start, please fill out CRWA's below volunteer application form today:

Help Protect the Charles by Becoming a CRWA Citizen Scientist Today!

 

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Dominican Delegation Visits the Charles River

Posted by Amy Rothe

7/21/14 5:57 PM

BMI_Sampling
Participating in a biological monitoring session
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Kendall Plant to Eliminate Thermal Pollution in the Charles River

Posted by Amy Rothe

6/19/14 5:02 PM

Kendall_plant_300x200pxOn May 20, 2014, an important component of Charles River Watershed Association’s (CRWA) and Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) settlement of the GenOn Kendall Cogeneration Plant’s (now owned by Veolia North America) Clean Water Act discharge permit became a reality. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Museum of Science, Veolia commemorated its “Green Steam” project, which includes the completion of a 7,000-foot steam pipeline extension from its Cambridge plant to Boston, and a planned reconfiguration of the combined heat and power plant. The pipeline connection and the planned reconfiguration will eliminate thermal discharge of heated water from the plant into the Charles. Previously, the plant discharged approximately 70 million gallons of heated water into the Charles daily, a volume often equal to the entire flow of the river during summer months.


CRWA and CLF began negotiations with the plant about the heated discharge in 1998, when then-owner Southern Energy upgraded the Kendall Square Station. CLF and CRWA argued that the plant’s discharge of heated water into Charles not only destroyed aquatic habitat, fish and other wildlife, but was also partly responsible for toxic algal blooms in the Charles River Lower Basin. It took CRWA and CLF over a decade of negotiations with first Southern Energy, followed by successive companies Mirant and GenOn, for the plant to develop a co-generation plan that ended the heated water discharge to the river. During this time, CRWA worked closely with GenOn’s Shawn Konary, who was the plant representative responsible for the new technology.


“Veolia is to be commended for the construction of the new pipe that carries the steam into Boston,” said Bob Zimmerman, CRWA’s Executive Director. “This is an innovative, energy-generating, and river friendly solution that should serve as a model for other cities.”


In addition to minimizing environmental impacts to the Charles River, Veolia’s plan to now capture and reuse heat will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the cities of Boston and Cambridge. For more information on Veolia’s “Green Steam” project, visit their website or read the company's recent press release.

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4 Ways Volunteers Will Make an Impact for the Charles River this Earth Day

Posted by Alexandra Ash

4/25/14 3:28 PM

On April 26, 2014, come rain or shine, over 4,000 volunteers will help beautify the Charles River in honor of Earth Day. Celebrating its 15th year, Charles River Watershed Association’s (CRWA) Earth Day Charles River Cleanup brings together volunteers from over 150 teams, who participate at multiple locations along the 80-mile Charles River.

Here are a few ways volunteers will make a huge difference at the event:Charles River Cleanup

  1. After the long winter, trash previously covered by snow and ice is now visible and free to blow into waterways. Participating volunteer teams pick up this litter and prevent it from entering the Charles. In 2012, volunteers removed a shopping cart, computer and several tires from the river!

  2. In addition to picking up litter from riverbank, volunteers will venture onto the river in canoes. This year, volunteers with Leinenkugel’s Canoes for a Cause will paddle past Brighton to reach trash that has drifted far from the shore, while volunteers from Big Heart, Little Feet will fish out litter from Populatic Pond. Volunteers in Newton will collect trash from canoes generously loaned by local residents.

  3. In addition to picking up trash, volunteers in Waltham will remove invasive weeds, including includingCharles River Cleanup garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed, from the banks of the Charles. Invasive species destroy aquatic habitat, crowd out native wildlife, and can negatively impact water quality. Removing invasive species is hard work, and these volunteers will certainly be a big help with this ongoing effort!

  4. The Earth Day Charles River Cleanup inspires volunteers to continue environmental stewardship beyond this day of service. Cleanup volunteers work year round to protect the Charles River. They remove invasive water chestnuts in the Charles River during the summer, collect water quality data monthly, and advocate for good environmental policies.
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About Charles River Watershed Association:

One of the country's oldest watershed organizations, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days of advocacy, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups from 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Initiatives over the last fifty years have dramatically improved the quality of water in the watershed and fundamentally changed approaches to water resource management.