Future growth projections and development
patterns will impact the overall availability for water supply and
water quality in the Nashua River Watershed. These sharply increasing
development pressures contribute to two general overarching problems
in the watershed: nonpoint source
pollution and the decline
of open space.
As the river assessment information presented in the
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Performance
Partnership Agreement indicates, nonpoint source pollution is a
major problem throughout the Commonwealth, and the Nashua basin
is no exception. Paralleling this are the growth trends: since 1950,
the population of Massachusetts has increased by 28%, while the
amount of developed land has increased by 188%. The population of
many Nashua watershed towns has increased dramatically from 1980-1995,
some as much as by 30-45%, and population is projected to grow 17%-80
% overall in the northern part of the basin from 1994 to the year
2010. The resultant unplanned development has occurred in a fragmented,
sprawl pattern that has a negative impact on both the environment
and the economy.
Among the other urgent problems we face in this watershed
are illicit discharge of sewage to surface waters, leaching of toxic
chemicals from old waste disposal sites, contamination of sediments,
excessive inputs of plant nutrients, flooding, deteriorating dams,
and inappropriately located development. Solutions to these problems
are not simple, nor are they easily implemented.
problems in the Nashua River basin include combined sewer overflow
(CSO) situations in Fitchburg and Nashua; high pathogen counts and
toxicity issues in North Nashua and main stem segments which are
on the 1998 federal 303(d) list; elevated pathogen levels in numerous
additional reaches on both the main stem and tributaries, as identified
by the NRWA volunteer water quality monitors. In addition, there
are eight troubled lakes on the federal 303(d) list and many others
with known eutrophication and non-native plant species problems.
There also remain questions regarding the levels of phosphorus throughout
Long-term problems as identified in the DEP 1998 Water
Quality Assessment, SMART Monitoring, the NRWA Sampling Reports,
Stream Teams and others must be addressed.
Where NPS pollution has been identified, restoration
projects to protect water quality need to be implemented.
A coherent approach to calculating
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) needs to be completed.
TMDLs and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
permits need to be linked through evaluation of point source and
non-point source pollutant loadings and upcoming Phase II Stormwater
regulations. These new load/wasteload allocations also need to be
linked to the hydrologic assessment.
requirements must be implemented in certain segments in order to
protect pristine waterways and habitat from point and non-point
source discharges and water supply withdrawals. In-stream flow requirements
must also be implemented on those segments already impacted to mitigate
future withdrawals and discharges (see Water
While Water Quantity
has not historically been considered a problem, preliminary findings
from the 2001 hydrologic analysis indicate that many of our sub-basins
are net exporters of water (meaning more water is going out than
coming in through precipitation or natural flows). The findings
of that report indicate that 11 of the 27 sub-basins in the Nashua
River Watershed are or will be in the future either high stressed
or medium stressed under the Department of Environmental Management
It is critical to begin implementing the recommendations such as
inter-municipal water supply planning in those most threatened sub-basins
and assessment of aquatic habitat impacts from worsening flow stresses.
In addition, there must be critical review of any additional sewering
in the watershed, especially sewering that moves water out of a
stressed subarea or out of the sub-basin rather than recharging
of Open Space is a critical link with
all of the above noted issues. The Plan seeks to manage growth and
encourage careful land use with well-planned development. In addition,
efforts should be made to protect priority land areas for forest,
agriculture, habitat, water resources and recreational values.