Massachusetts’ intricate network of rivers and streams delivers the lifeblood of fresh water to cities and towns across the state. They give us drinking water and absorb floodwaters, provide nutrients to the sea and to our farmlands, generate energy and offer scenic spots to fish, boat and swim—all while sustaining myriad natural communities.
In our efforts over time to grow crops, expand cities, generate electricity and keep floods at bay, we have thrown many of these systems out of balance, disrupting connections and impairing the ability of our waters and lands to support life and livelihoods.
The Nature Conservancy has a vision to restore and sustain fresh waters in Massachusetts and ensure that they will continue to support the people, plants and animals that depend on them. With your help, we can turn that vision into reality and use science to create alternatives to destructive and wasteful ways of using water.
Our Freshwater Conservation Solutions
- Protecting Healthy Headwaters
Healthy freshwater systems —from the majestic Connecticut River to the streams and rivers that feed the Quabbin Reservoir — literally start with healthy headwaters. That’s where our approach begins, as well. With your help we can double the amount of headwater areas protected in Massachusetts, by conserving an additional 400,000 acres in the rural areas where rivers are born.
- Restoring Floodplains and Preserving River Shorelands
River floodplains and natural areas along river banks are home to native plants that help absorb floodwaters and filter pollutants. Our goal: double the amount of floodplains and streamside land protected by conserving an additional 150,000 acres.
- Protecting Clean Drinking Water
Forests support our drinking water supply by filtering water as it travels and by securing the soil along rivers and streams to reduce sedimentation in our reservoirs. These same lands also provide vibrant habitat for wildlife. You can help us protect 50 percent — 190,000 acres — of the state’s remaining water-supply lands.
- Connecting River Networks
Our rivers and streams should be superhighways for migrating fish, but dams and poorly-built road crossings create dead ends that keep nature from functioning at its best. Restoring access for fish and other species can bring vitality to our river systems and sustain important fisheries at sea. Your support can help us reconnect 1,000 miles of streams by removing dams and connecting habitats throughout Massachusetts.
- Letting Waters Flow
The seasonal flow of our rivers, from spring’s torrents to fall’s quiet currents, offer signals and opportunities for freshwater species to migrate and spawn. We are working with state and municipal partners to ensure that natural flow patterns and water levels are maintained in Massachusetts’ rivers, to sustain critical river processes and diverse aquatic life.
Because headwater streams, river corridors and water-supply lands sometimes overlap, the Conservancy estimates that we, our conservation partners, the state and private landowners can achieve these goals by protecting 750,000 acres of land, reconnecting 5,000 miles of stream, protecting and restoring flows and minimizing the impact of future development.
Water 2020: A Shared Vision for Massachusetts
The Nature Conservancy has collaborated with more than 50 watershed groups to create a shared plan for achieving sustainable water management in Massachusetts by the year 2020. Explore the actions that will secure a healthy future for our waters. (pdf, 1 MB)
Q&A with Alison Bowden
Alison Bowden, Freshwater Program director in Massachusetts, talks about keeping rivers connected, flowing and forested.
River Voices: Marilyn and Jay Sarles
Through their experiences, Marilyn and Jay Sarles have learned that people can be a force that weakens our rivers’ vital natural processes — or a force that keeps them working. Learn why the Sarles support the Conservancy’s efforts.
Three Ways We Work With Dams
The Conservancy has developed 3 creative solutions to restore the health of rivers below dams while also meeting the needs of people.