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The Charles River

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The Charles River Watershed lies in eastern Massachusetts. Like the Boston Marathon, the river flows from the city's western suburbs to its mouth in downtown Boston at Boston Harbor. The Charles drains a highly developed Watershed of some 308 square miles, shared by 35 towns and cities, with a total Watershed population of 900,000 people.

Since the 1972 Clean Water Act, continued efforts to identify point sources of pollution, such as wastewater treatment facilities and industry, have contributed to increasingly cleaner waters in the Charles River. However, non-point source pollution such as urban runoff, decreased stormwater infiltration due to impervious surfaces, illicit discharges into the watershed and combined sewer overflows continue to degrade the watershed.

To reduce downstream flood levels, over 8,000 acres of wetlands in the Charles River Watershed have been protected for natural valley storage flood protection, This provides habitat for numerous plant and animal species, as well as contributing to improved water quality and recreation.

The Charles River Watershed Team, a collaboration of governmental and nongovernmental groups, annually assembles a work plan to prioritize activities in the watershed. In addition, the Clean Charles 2005 Initiative has recently been completed to guide protection, restoration, and enhancement efforts to make the Charles River fishable and swimmable by the year 2005.

-Adapted from information provided by the Charles River Watershed Association

Watershed Links

Charles River Watershed Association
One of the country's first watershed organizations, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days of advocacy, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups from 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston.

National Wildlife Federation
Explore a case study on the Charles River watershed performed by the National Wildlie Federation.

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Last Updated: January 20, 2006