History & Accomplishments

The Ipswich River Watershed Association is a group of people who care about the Ipswich River and want to keep it out of danger.  The voice of the river since 1977, we work to make sure there is clean safe water for people and businesses, protect nature, keep the river healthy for fish and wildlife and provide a great place to have fun outdoors.

IRWA is a small organization with a record of big accomplishments, including the following:

  • In 2007 establishing a new headquarters, Riverbend, on a beautiful 15-acre riverfront property; the site is now a model for water and energy efficiency and low-impact development.
  • Receiving an Environmental Merit Award in 2010 from the New England Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in recognition of our exceptional work and commitment to the environment.
  • Selection as a featured organization in the 2007 Massachusetts Catalogue for Philanthropy, which profiles Massachusetts’ outstanding environmental, cultural and human service agencies as examples of excellence in philanthropy.
  • Successful legal challenges to reduce the impacts of water withdrawals on the Ipswich River and improve protection of all Massachusetts rivers, by strengthening state water policy and implementation of state laws; in late 2007 Superior Court ruled in IRWA’s favor that existing water withdrawal authorizations violate state law.
  • Spearheading cutting-edge scientific studies of the Ipswich River, identifying the causes and environmental impacts of its severe low-flow problems, and potential solutions.
  • Educating local, state and federal officials about the condition of the Ipswich River and how to restore it to health, including the Ipswich River Watershed Management Plan, the Ipswich River Regional Water Conservation Plan; and Water Wise Communities – A Handbook for Municipal Managers in the Ipswich River Watershed.
  • Developing a program to balance the water budget in Ipswich, including innovative ways to fund water conservation and reduce polluted runoff.
  • Celebrating our fifteenth year of monitoring the health of the Ipswich River by more than 50 trained citizen-scientists, developing a water quality database and report analyzing trends; conducting an annual herring count (since 1999), and coordinating volunteer Stream Teams that seek to protect and restore the river and its tributaries in several watershed communities through local action.
  • Developing school curricula, educational materials, programs and demonstration projects about how to save water, landscaping with less water and no chemicals, low impact development and water resource protection.
  • Receiving national recognition for leadership in river protection from River Network, which named past Executive Director Kerry Mackin a River Hero in May 2007; Mackin has also received a Merit Award for IRWA’s water conservation program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and numerous awards for her advocacy work.

Due to the large water supply demands placed on this small river, and impacts of development, the Ipswich River was named one of the nation’s most endangered rivers in 2003 (American Rivers).  Now, thanks largely to IRWA’s work to raise awareness and defend the river, the most damaged part of the Ipswich River is vastly improved and the vision of a healthy river is achievable.