Mainstem of the Nashua River

Protecting Our Rivers and Streams

The quality of the water in our rivers and streams is a reflection of the health of our entire watershed ecosystem. The impact of any land use practice on the quality or quantity of water can be substantial. Clean rivers are a must for healthy, sustainable aquatic life and for pleasurable, safe recreation.

Willard Brook in Townsend, MA – Photo by Kim KingOne of the primary threats to water quality in the Nashua River watershed are the pollutants that make it to streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds in stormwater runoff. Rain water and melting snow wash pollutants such as nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus), oil, grease, sediment, bacteria and heavy metals into nearby waterways. The sources of the pollutants include lawns and agricultural fields, roadways and parking lots, uncollected pet waste, and erosion from development.

The NRWA works to maintain and improve the water quality in our rivers through our Water Monitoring Program where dedicated volunteers are our eyes on the rivers and streams throughout the watershed, and help to gather water quality data, monthly from April through October. This program has been in existence for two decades, creating a historic record of the health of our local waterways that helps us to better assess current conditions. The NRWA Water Monitoring Program’s Quality Assurance Project Plan has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and ensures that the data collected is accepted for assessment reports by each of these agencies.

The legacy of aging infrastructure in urban areas is also something we work to improve. For example, NRWA works on site-specific projects including tracking sources of bacteria in the City of Fitchburg. NRWA has educated businesses about the importance of closing illicit floor drains in Lancaster, and the annual Monoosnoc Brook Clean-up in Leominster celebrated its 25th year in 2011. More on NRWA water quality projects.

For information about water quality issues, please contact Martha Morgan, NRWA Water Programs Director, at (978) 448-0299, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .