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Connecticut

The Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership History

The Watershed

The Saugatuck River Watershed covers 89 square miles of land within eleven towns in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Within the 57,264 acre watershed, conservation activities by The Nature Conservancy and others have protected over 17,000 acres, primarily in the upper watershed, from development.  These protected lands contain forests, streams, wetlands and fields critical to the health of the rich diversity of species. 

Three main tributaries, the Aspetuck, Little and West Branch of the Saugatuck combine with smaller streams to form a rich network of 242 miles of perennial waterways which all discharge into the Saugatuck River and finally into Long Island Sound. Many of these streams support breeding populations of native brook trout, a species in decline in New England.

Despite being a healthy, intact ecological system, which retains a biological and hydrological connection to Long Island Sound, development pressure is intense. The watershed supplies drinking water to over 300,000 customers of the Aquarion Water Company’s main Bridgeport System.  Most of these customers live outside of the watershed.

Water demand as well as land and water management practices threaten not only diverse habitats and species but also surface and groundwater quality. Because most residents within the Saugatuck River Watershed rely on private wells and clean ground water for their drinking water, the health of all of the components of the entire system is critical.

Although studies show excellent water quality in the main streams and rivers of the watershed, some smaller tributaries which run through developed and developing areas are showing signs of stress.

History of the Partnership

In 2005, The Nature Conservancy convened a series of workshops with over 80 participants from Federal, State and local agencies, local municipalities, conservation partners, concerned citizens and others to develop a conservation action plan to protect and enhance the health of the Saugatuck River watershed.

The planning workshops identified a number of threats to the watershed’s health.  These threats are shared by most watersheds in developing regions and include the impacts from: Development, Dams, Land Management, Reservoir Management/ Water Withdrawal and Invasive Species.

Led by The Nature Conservancy, the Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership was established in April 2006 when the chief elected officials from the eleven towns within the Saugatuck River Watershed signed a conservation compact recognizing the value of regional planning and a healthy watershed.

The partnership includes representatives of the eleven municipalities, State, local and Federal agencies, conservation partners, and others interested in collaborative conservation efforts to preserve, enhance and protect the health of this valuable natural resource.

For more information on the Partnership or our activities, contact Sally Harold at sharold@tnc.org, (203) 226-4991 Ext. 207.

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