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Protecting Clean Water: A Community Effort

The core of the Nashua River Watershed Association’s work to restore and protect water quality is the NRWA Water Monitoring Program (WMP), now in its 28th consecutive year. The WMP is led by the NRWA’s Water Programs Director and NRWA Water Monitoring Coordinator, who work with dozens of volunteers. This year the WMP continued with adjustments to ensure the program could be conducted with required Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines. Additionally, their wastewater treatment facility partners were not allowing the public into their facilities, so the NRWA River Resource Center became the lab.
     WMP provides baseline information and data on water quality in streams and rivers from sites in 15 watershed communities. Data collected are used to ensure waterways remain clean, and to help identify sections of rivers or streams that require more investigation. Each month a River Report Card is gener- ated and posted to their website showing the E. coli bacteria levels at the sites sampled. NRWA’s August 2020 River Report Card can be viewed at
     “The Report Card has proven to be popular in keeping the public informed of the condition of the waterways and how they can help keep the rivers and streams clean,” says Kathryn Nelson, Water Monitoring Coordinator. “Overall, most waterways have good water quality with the exception of after rain storms when pollutants on the land get washed into the rivers and streams. The low flows we are seeing in this year’s drought can be stressful to fish and concentrate any pollutants that do get washed into the water.”
     The Association has been pleased to see many people out kayaking, canoeing, and fishing on the rivers this year. Along with recreational opportunities, our healthier waterways improve wildlife habitat for turtles, birds, fish, and large mammals who may live in or seek food and water along our rivers.
     To protect native fish habitat, and keep the river open for boating, Martha Morgan, Water Programs Director, worked with a mother-daughter team of seasonal staff, and several volunteers, to scout and remove aquatic invasive water chestnut plants that can clog the river. “The volunteers care so much about the river, they come out in their own boats, enjoy paddling and observing the wildlife and helping keep it nice for everyone,” commented Martha. “Thank you to all who assisted with that effort.”
     NRWA’s WMP is supported in part by grants from the Greater Lowell Community Foundation and the Mass Department of Environmental Protection.
     For questions about NRWA’s WMP, please email KathrynN@ To learn more about the work of the NRWA, a non-profit organization supported by memberships and donations, visit
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