WHAT IS A WATERSHED?
A watershed is a land area defined by topography in which water flows from the highest point to the lowest point and contributes to a particular lake, river or other body of water.
WHAT IS THE MYSTIC RIVER WATERSHED?
The Mystic River Watershed covers 76 square miles or roughly 1% of the land area of Massachusetts. It includes all the land area that drains into the Mystic River. Its headwaters begin in Reading, MA and form the Aberjona River, then flow into the Upper Mystic Lake in Winchester. From the Lower Mystic Lake, the Mystic River flows through Arlington, Somerville, Medford, Everett, Chelsea, Charlestown, and East Boston before emptying into Boston Harbor. Explore the Mystic River Watershed using our interactive Environmental Atlas!
The "Lower Mystic River Watershed" refers to the area below the Amelia Earhart Dam in Somerville, which is salt water. Whereas the "Upper Mystic River Watershed" refers to the freshwater area above the Amelia Earhart Dam.
There are 44 lakes and ponds within the Watershed, with Spot Pond being the largest standing body of water at 307 acres in size. The 22 communities within the Mystic River Watershed include:
- Boston (Charlestown & East Boston)
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE MYSTIC RIVER WATERSHED ASSOCIATION (MyRWA)?
The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA ) was established in 1972 to protect and restore the Mystic River, its tributaries and watershed lands for the benefit of present and future generations and to celebrate the value, importance and great beauty of these natural resources.
WHAT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES THREATEN THE MYSTIC RIVER WATERSHED?
The Mystic River Watershed is one of the most urban and densely populated watersheds in the Commonwealth. It has three Superfund sites within its borders, and is home to various Environmental Justice communities. The Mystic has a history of industry along it's banks - evidence of which continue to linger.
- Poor water quality from stormwater runoff and sewage contamination along Alewife Brook
- Contaminated sediments from a long industrial history (Aberjona River, Malden River)
- Threats to the little remaining open space, throughout the Watershed
- Localized flooding (particularly in Winchester and along Alewife Brook)
- Poor public access to many of the rivers and brooks
- Invasive species, such as water chestnut, impact water quality, species diversity, and habitat quality
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY?
As a small organization, MyRWA accomplishes its mission by forging links with citizens’ groups, colleges and universities, businesses and government agencies. These alliances permit MyRWA to work throughout the Watershed to document current conditions and advocate for sound resource management and protection. Since 2000, MyRWA volunteers have collected water samples throughout the watershed for analysis of bacteria and nutrients. MyRWA boasts three distinct water quality monitoring programs. These include the Baseline Monitoring Program, where volunteers sample at the same 15 locations each month; and our Hot-Spot Monitoring Program, where volunteers sample each month intensively along a river or stream. Lastly, the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program monitors cyanobacteria levels, which is used to alert authorities of this potentially harmful bacteria. MyRWA is able to track changes in water quality over time, provide valuable data to the EPA and communities within the Watershed, and identify pollution sources.
- MyRWA hosts Water Quality Workshops for youth from partnering community organizations to provide environmental education surrounding water quality issues and testing methods, as well as enhance their awareness and knowledge of the local ecology.
- MyRWA provides Citizen Scientist Training Workshops for local citizens to become trained in water quality monitoring methods. Participants may then join MyRWA’s various water quality monitoring programs, which rely primarily on volunteer efforts. If you are interested in attending the next Workshop please check here for upcoming dates.
WHAT KINDS OF ACTIVITIES ARE AVAILABLE ALONG THE WATERWAYS?
- Swimming at Shannon Beach (Upper Mystic Lake, Winchester).
- Boating at Blessing of the Bay Boathouse, Somerville; Spot Pond, Stoneham; Horn Pond, Woburn. Click on the Recreation page to find all the canoe and kayak launches.
- General recreation, including biking, running, picnicing, birding. Click here for the interactive Environmental Atlas.
WHAT WILDLIFE LIVES IN THE MYSTIC RIVER WATERSHED?
The Mystic River Watershed encompasses numerous habitats including forest, meadow, field, wetland, rivers, lakes, and ponds, and is therefore home to a wide diversity of wildlife.
- Mammals such as fox, raccoon, beaver, muskrat, and opossum, and the occasional coyote or fisher.
- Birds, including raptors such as redtailed hawks and eagles, songbirds, shorebirds, and wading birds.
- Reptiles, such as garter snakes, painted turtles, and snapping turtles.
- Amphibians, such as frogs, toads, and salamanders.
- Fish, such as blueback herring and alewives that swim upstream from the ocean each year to spawn.
WHAT HAS MyRWA ACCOMPLISHED?
MyRWA is a community-based, private, nonprofit organization with well doumented accomplishments over the 40 year history including the more current achievements below. Click here for a more extensive list of MyRWA’s accomplishments.
- In 2012, MyRWA launched the Herring Monitoring Program, recruiting a record number of volunteer citizen scientists to help in this effort.
- MyRWA's Patrick Herron received an Environmental Merit Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
HOW CAN I BECOME INVOLVED WITH MyRWA?
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Mystic River Watershed Association. For the first 27 years of its existence, all programs were volunteer-run. The addition of staff members has enhanced MyRWA’s ability to support citizens’ interests and efforts while maintaining the institutional memory of the organization. Opportunities for participation include serving on one of MyRWA’s committees (Policy, Water Quality, Outreach); volunteering as a water quality monitor; organizing spring clean-ups; helping to plan events; assisting in office work; providing website assistance, etc.
MyRWA is a membership-run organization. Please support our work by joining as a member today. Membership begins at $35 and is a tax-deductible donation. Membership benefits include:
- A year’s subscription to our newsletter, the Mystic Messenger, with the information on what is happening in the Mystic River Watershed.
- Invitations to special events and notices of activities in the Watershed.
- Voting authority for the Board of Directors at MyRWA’s Annual Meeting.
- A great feeling of knowing your donation is going toward efforts to save the water that connect our community.
For more information and to volunteer contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-316-3438.
IS THERE ADDITIONAL RESEARCH AVAILABLE?
View a list of research and publications concerning the Mystic River Watershed here.