Nashua Watershed to Benefit from EPA Grant (MA, NH)

GROTON, MA, 4/17/02– The Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency will fund a pilot program to protect local drinking water sources in seven communities within the Nashua River watershed. The communities in the pilot area are Ashby, Shirley, Groton, Townsend, and Pepperell in Massachusetts, as well as Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, Milford, and New Ipswich in southern New Hampshire.

This area was selected as one of four pilot sites in the country. The other three sites are Carroll County, GA, Monmouth County, NJ, and Baltimore County, MD. A total of $390,000 in federal funds has been awarded to the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, to implement the drinking water protection pilot programs in partnership with the University of Massachusetts and the USDA Forest Service. Of this total, approximately $90,000 is earmarked for the Nashua River watershed pilot.

“These watersheds currently provide high quality drinking water, but they are being developed at a rapid rate” said Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, executive director of the NRWA. “This region of Massachusetts is expected to grow by more than 25 percent over the next decade, and the growth rate for Brookline and Hollis, New Hampshire is projected to be between 70 and 140 percent. This could spell trouble for our drinking water supplies. Unless we become more proactive in planning for growth and setting aside open space, our drinking water will be increasingly vulnerable to pollution from fertilizers, insecticides, fuel by-products, and other chemicals associated with commercial and residential development.”

“We are delighted to be partnering with EPA in implementing these innovative pilot programs,” said Kathy Blaha, senior vice president for the Trust for Public Land. “The funds will be used to create computer models of the watersheds and provide technical assistance to communities in the pilot program area to foster land conservation and sustainable forest management.”

The EPA funded the projects to demonstrate the use of land conservation and forest management practices as innovative and sustainable approaches to drinking water protection.

“We expect that the collaborative effort at the local level will result in some unique approaches that can be transferred to other communities around the country,” said Debra Gutenson, project officer with the EPA.

All of the communities included in this pilot project are located within the primary watershed of the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers, which are important tributaries to the Nashua River. In Shirley, Groton, Townsend, and Pepperell, Massachusetts, town wells provide approximately 30,000 homes with drinking water drawn from this watershed. And in all the towns, the watersheds supply drinking water for many families on private wells.

A critical component of the pilot programs will be the development of computer models by the University of Massachusetts. These models will demonstrate how pollutants move through the watershed and will predict how future development and other land use changes are likely to impact drinking water. They will be used to identify which areas in the watershed are the highest priority for protection and which areas will benefit most from sustainable forestry management techniques.

NWRA and TPL will also be working with the US Forest Service, New England Forestry Foundation, Squannassit Initiative Committee, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, local officials, and water suppliers to implement the pilot programs. For more information, contact Al Futterman of the Nashua River Watershed Association at (978) 448-0299.

The Nashua River Watershed Association, founded in 1969, is a non-profit 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.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 100,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.