Nashua River Watershed Report Released (MA, NH)

The Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) and the Trust for Public Land released the results of a federally funded report on priorities for safeguarding water quality in 11 communities within the Nashua River watershed. ?The study found that well-managed forests are key to buffering drinking water sources from pollution and that forest cover in the Nashua River watershed is rapidly declining due to high rates of development.

The communities included in the report are Ashby, Shirley, Groton, Townsend, and Pepperell in Massachusetts and Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, Milford, and New Ipswich in southern New Hampshire. ?All of these communities are located within the primary watershed of the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers, which are important tributaries to the Nashua River.

“This report is timely, and we believe it will be very helpful as communities and nonprofits work together to identify the best ways to protect current and future water supplies,” said Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, executive director of the NRWA.

?”Many cities, including Boston, protect forestlands surrounding their drinking water sources, because these lands play a critical role in filtering out pollutants. ?This report confirms that in the Nashua River watershed, forest cover must be protected to preserve drinking water quality, and the time to act is now,” said Kathy Blaha, senior vice president for the Trust for Public Land.

The 30-page Source Water Stewardship Exchange Team Report was funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, as one of four pilot projects in the country. ?The other three sites are Carroll County, GA, Monmouth County, NJ, and Baltimore County, MD.

The report was written by a team of experts, who spent a week in Groton last May examining data about the study area. ?Participating members of the Source Water Stewardship Exchange Team were geologist Michael Heidorn, Roger Monthey of the USDA Forest Service, consultant Jay Sherman, and Matthew Zieper of the Trust for Public Land.

A critical component of the study was the completion of a computer model of the watershed by the University of Massachusetts. ?The model allowed UMass to identify the most critical undeveloped lands that currently buffer the region’s significant aquifers, including all public water supplies.

Dr. Paul Barten, associate professor at UMass-Amherst, explained, “Land cover in the Squannacook and Nissitissit River watersheds has reached key thresholds for urban development and forest clearing. ?If additional development and forest clearing take place, data from long-term field studies suggests that they will result in rapid declines in water quality.”

In general, water quality begins to decline measurably when the percent of forest cover in a watershed falls below 75 percent. ?Forest cover in the Squannacook River watershed is currently about 79 percent, and forest cover in the Nissitissit River watershed is 66 percent.

Additional research and information for the report were provided by the Nashua River Watershed Association, the Trust for Public Land, U.S. Forest Service, Northeast Rural Water Association, Beaver Brook Association, EPA Region I, and Massachusetts Watershed Initiative.

The report recommends several action steps, including conserving the most critical lands for current and future water supply and strengthening the regulatory protection of groundwater at the local and state level. ?The Nashua River Watershed Association plans to follow up on the report’s findings by convening a broad group of stakeholders to refine and begin implementing the study’s recommendations. ?

The Nashua River Watershed Association, founded in 1969, is a nonprofit conservation organization whose mission is a healthy ecosystem with clean water and open spaces for human and wildlife communities, where people work together to sustain mutual economic and environmental well-being within the Nashua River watershed. The Association serves 31 communities in central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The Association’s main goals include protection of water quality and quantity, careful land use with well-planned development, and watershed education. ?A full copy of the report can be downloaded from NRWA’s website,

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. ?Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states, including more than 150,000 acres in New England. ?A full copy of the report can be downloaded from TPL’s website,

For more information contact:
Al Futterman, Nashua River Watershed Association (978) 448-0299
Erin Rowland, The Trust for Public Land, (617) 367-6200 x321

Posted 9/2003