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Critical Drought in the Watershed
Even with a little less heat and a little more rain in our forecasts, our watershed has been declared a Level 3 - Critical Drought region—one of the worst in the state. For a visual: here’s South Natick Dam in May, versus now.
We have long been pushing for us to rethink the way we manage water here in Massachusetts, and this dry photo of the river in Natick is why! Massachusetts receives over 40 inches of rain each year on average, we are not California or Arizona! Even this year, with below average rainfall, Boston has still seen 30 inches of precipitation—enough water to last us through the year.

The fact that we’re in a Critical Drought status demonstrates our water management failure and how much we undervalue water. When we paved over and built on much of our landscape, we fundamentally altered the natural water cycle. Developed areas are designed to carry rainwater away as quickly as possible instead of allowing it to naturally infiltrate and recharge our groundwater. Groundwater is nature’s “water bank” storing in there for an “un-rainy day.”  

We need to rethink our water management system and practices now, to plan for a future that doesn’t look like today. As we know, climate change predictions for the Northeast foresee that we will have wetter winters and springs, but drier and hotter summers. We know we may not be able to avoid droughts in the future, but we can do a better job of managing the water that we do get to be more resilient to drought in the future. In our homes and businesses, we can do much more to conserve water and limit non-essential use. Just as important, in our communities, we can employ green infrastructure measures and make smarter land use decisions to mimic the way nature manages water, like infiltrating it into the ground and storing it there for future use by both people and rivers.

We appreciate your continued support and look forward to continuing our advocacy for better stormwater management and stronger action from the state on drought. Learn more about actions you can take to conserve water now and proactively.
News at a Glance
  • MassDOT’s I-90 Allston multimodal project is reaching an important decision point and we wanted to let you know where we stand: We oppose filling the Charles River to accommodate a vast expanse of roadway and will continue advocating for a project design that is climate resilient and protects and restores the Charles River. You can read more in our comment letter to MassDOT and submit comments of your own!

  • CRWA’s Flagging program has ended for 2020. Check out our water quality data. This program notifies boaters of current river health during peak recreational season from Watertown to Boston, and we were excited to have Cambridge Boat Club join this year. While our Live Alerts have ended, you can still remain updated on water quality through the data our Volunteer Monthly Monitors collect.

  • The cyanobacteria bloom in the lower basin, from the Mass Ave Bridge to the New Charles River Dam, finally seems to be dissipating after nearly 3 months. The public health advisory cannot be rescinded until the Department of Public Health collects two consecutive samples, a week apart, with cyanobacteria levels below the DPH threshold. We have notified them of the change and hope to hear soon. In the meantime, people and pets should still avoid contact with the water. You can stay updated through our website and social media.  

  • Last month, we shared good news: EPA is considering taking new steps to curb stormwater pollution from commercial, industrial, and large multi-unit developments who are currently not required to manage stormwater under the Clean Water Act. We are working hard to get the word out about why this new permitting effort is critical to reducing phosphorus pollution in the Charles and have hosted several presentations with environmental partners and watershed communities. 

  • In May’s newsletter, we introduced our Eagle Dam removal project in Wrentham. Since then, we presented information on our dam removal feasibility assessment project to the Town’s Board of Selectmen. Many old dams across the watershed present a risk in the age of climate change, and we commend the Town of Wrentham for taking on this project to address this potential hazard that also degrades the Eagle Brook. You can learn more about the project and next steps online.

  • Phase 2 of the Muddy River Flood Risk Management Project is underway! Dredging has begun, which restores river flow and habitat space. As the tributary of the Charles with the worst water quality, we’re very excited to follow and support this project and encourage you to check it out!

  • We would like to thank everyone who attended and supported our 8th Annual Champions of the Charles *virtual* Gala. Because of your generosity, we raised over $220,000! We are so thankful for your support and had a blast mixing a “Dirty Water” Cocktail with Sam the bartender, premiering the short video The People’s River, and jamming with Boston’s local band Moose and the Mops to “Take Me to the River.”

Get Involved

  • Interested in getting involved in one of the oldest and largest volunteer water sampling programs in the country? Learn more about our Volunteer Monthly Monitoring program from a short video and apply online.

  • Our watershed has been singled out as a Level 3 - Critical Drought Status. What #MADroughtLooksLike is up to you—help us document low streamflow and water level by sending photos, videos, and observations with a location name and date to

  • Fall is here! Which means the optimal time to explore riverside trails and peep at foliage is upon us. Look good and stay warm in new CRWA apparel long sleeves and sweaters.

Upcoming Events

  • Most events have been made virtual through 2020. As a science-based organization, we encourage you to continue following CDC recommendations, like wearing a mask and maintaining a safe social distance from others. We wish you and your family continued health during these difficult times.
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