Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

Highlights from 2017

Posted by Alexandra Ash

12/17/17 8:19 PM

2017 was a busy year for environmental organizations nationwide—including Charles River Watershed Association— as we fought for the continued enforcement of environmental laws. On a local level in Massachusetts, we advocated for policies and projects that will help our communities adapt to extreme storms and frequent drought. Throughout the year we continued our core field science work and expanded the Blue Cities demonstration projects that are greening neighborhoods throughout the watershed. Each day we do this work we are thankful to you for making it possible!

Please consider giving a year-end gift to support CRWA's powerful advocacy and river restoration in 2018.


January: Fought to protect water resources in Massachusetts


Fought to protect water resources in MassachusettsCRWA advocated for rules to protect water resources for people and wildlife. 

CRWA commented on the state’s proposed revisions to the Interbasin Transfer Act regulations, which regulate when drinking water and wastewater may be transferred between watersheds.

February: Launched app to help Dedham homeowners save water


Launched app to help Dedham homeowners save water

Over 700 homeowners saved water with the free app.

CRWA and Dedham-Westwood Water District launched an app to help Dedham and Westwood & homeowners save water. The app, created by California company Dropcountr, empowers customers to conserve water and improves communication between customers and the water district. During the 6 month pilot project, over 700 Dedham and Westwood residents downloaded the app.

March: Freed the Charles River in Bellingham


Freed the Charles River in Bellingham

Fish now swim unobstructed in this portion of the river. 

The Old Mill Dam in Bellingham was removed from the Charles River allowing this section of the river to once again flow freely. After more than a year of planning and on-site work by project partners including the Town of Bellingham and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the Charles River now flows unobstructed from the North Bellingham dam to the West Medway dam.

April: Contributed to the understanding of the Charles River


Contributed to the understanding of the Charles RiverIn April, volunteers successfully monitored 100% of sampling sites.

Over 70 citizen scientist volunteers collected water quality samples from 35 sites along the Charles River and its tributaries. Each month these dedicated volunteers measure temperature and depth and collect water samples for analysis at the lab. Over the past 20 years our volunteers have helped us establish the most comprehensive data set for the Charles River.

May: Disseminated CRWA’s strategies for green urban design


Disseminated CRWA’s strategies for green urban design

In May, CRWA hosted rain barrel and rain garden workshops for watershed residents.

Rain barrels help homeowners conserve water, catching water from the roof to use for lawn watering. Both rain barrels and rain gardens prevent polluted stormwater from entering the Charles River. 

Also in May, CRWA released our groundbreaking book Transformation: Water Infrastructure for a Sustainable Future which compiles CRWA's research of a revolutionary new approach to managing water in urban areas. This book lays out a vision for a future where water is treated as a valuable resource, waste is recycled, and infrastructure is sustainable and resilient. 


June: Gained a deeper understanding of river habitat


Gained a deeper understanding of river habitat

CRWA scientists and 12 citizen scientist volunteers collected benthic macroinvertebrates from rivers and streams.

Benthic macroinvertebrates—insects, mollusks, and other small organisms that live on the bottom of streams and rivers—help CRWA determine the health of rivers and streams in the watershed. 

July: Informed boaters when the Charles River was safe


Informed boaters when the Charles River was safe

Throughout the summer, CRWA informed river users when the lower basin was safe for boating based on a sophisticated automatic forecasting model. 

Interns and volunteers collect water quality samples twice a week to inform the model. Also in July, lovers of the Charles River paddled to work to raise funds to support CRWA's work protecting the river. Thank you to Tyler Studds for organizing this fun event. 

August: Monitored a potentially harmful cyanobacteria bloom in the Charles River


Monitored a potentially harmful cyanobacteria bloom in the Charles RiverCRWA informed boaters when the river was unsafe. 

CRWA worked closely with local and state agencies to monitor potential cynanobacteria blooms in the Charles River and inform the public of outbreaks. Cyanobacteria are naturally-occurring organisms found in rivers and lakes that are capable of producing toxins and can quickly multiply in response to nutrient pollution and warm, stagnant water. 

When the MA Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) decided to reopen proceedings on the proposed Exelon power plant in Medway, CRWA again intervened in the proceedings. CRWA proposed 6 sites for stormwater recharge projects and submitted comments on the draft decision during the EFSB proceedings. 

September: Prevented pollution from entering the Charles River in Watertown


Prevented pollution from entering the Charles River in Watertown

CRWA collaborated with the Town of Watertown on the first green street in Watertown.

A green street incorporates trees, gardens, narrower roadways and other techniques to slow traffic, improve local rivers and beautify the neighborhood. This fall 4 tree trenches and 7 specially designed gardens called bioswales were installed along Edenfield Avenue to collect and filter stormwater runoff, keeping pollution out of the Charles River. The tree trenches and bioswales will be planted next spring. 


October: Helped prepare Massachusetts for drought


Helped prepare Massachusetts for drought

CRWA pressed for legislation that would strengthen the state's ability to conserve water during drought.

Water conservation is the single most cost-effective, proactive measure that we can take in the face of drought. CRWA testified before the Massachusetts legislature’s Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture committee in support of “An Act Relative to Drought Management” to improve the state’s drought responsiveness. 

November: Restored habitat to Magazine Beach


Restored habitat to Magazine Beach

320 volunteers pulled over 200 bags of invasive plants during the summer and fall. 

Volunteers from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Troop, Crew 56, and corporate groups removed invasive phragmites plants at Magazine Beach in Cambridge in an effort to restore stormwater treatment wetlands in the park. The work days were part of the Magazine Beach Restoration Project

Also in November, we celebrated the Charles River with the Champions of the Charles gala at the Museum of Science.

December: Swimming boldly toward the future


Swimming boldly toward the future

Many environmental challenges lie ahead, but with your support we will move together toward a resilient future and a restored Charles River.

With your generous support and the hard work of our volunteers and partners, CRWA has accomplished incredible things this year! Thank you for your commitment to the Charles River.  Please consider giving a year-end gift today to protect the Charles River. 



Topics: Fish and Wildlife, Charles River, Volunteer, Stormwater, Green Infrastructure, Pollution, Smart Sewering, Distributed Wastewater, Blue Cities, Water Quality, Low Impact Development, Boating, Recreation

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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.