Keeping Water Local
IRWA is implementing a series of Keeping Water Local demonstration projects at Riverbend thanks to a generous grant from the Massachusetts Riverways Program.
These projects show how we can all live better using less water, and reduce pollution and replenish groundwater too. Visitors are welcome; come see for yourself what you can do to be water-wise!
The Keeping Water Local demonstration projects at Riverbend include (click for downloadable PDF fact sheets):
- Water Efficient Fixtures and Appliances (including High Efficiency Toilets)
- Drought Tolerant Native Plant Garden
- Rain Garden and Drainage Improvements
- Permeable Paving
- Rainwater Harvesting
- Green Roof
- Future Innovative Greywater And Wastewater System
Why Keep Water Local?
Taking water from our rivers and environment can cause serious damage. Water withdrawals from the Ipswich River often reduce the river to mere trickle – or no flow at all – especially in summer. These unnatural low-flow and no-flow periods kill fish and other creatures, degrade the river ecosystem, impair water quality and make the river unsuitable for canoeing, kayaking, and other recreation. Reducing the amount of water taken from the Ipswich River is the first priority in restoring it to health. The Egypt-Rowley River, which supplies most of the Town of Ipswich’s water, is also significantly impaired due to water withdrawals; the Keeping Water Local Project will also benefit this small coastal river.
The second priority is retaining more water in the local river basin, instead of transporting it elsewhere. Currently, about 80% of the water that municipalities pump from the Ipswich River Watershed is shipped elsewhere, creating a serious water deficit that stresses the river’s ecosystem. The Egypt-Rowley River also has a significant flow deficit. Using water more efficiently, along with on-site and innovative ways to treat our “used” water can really help solve this problem.
Third, we need to reduce runoff – water that rushes off the land, rooftops, roadways and other hard surfaces, carrying pollutants with it. We also need to get that water back into the ground so it can be cleansed as it travels through the soil, and then flow into the river. This “groundwater” is the elixir of life for our rivers – clean and cool, it keeps our rivers flowing, even during hot, dry weather.
Pumping and removing water from our river systems is very costly and often damages the environment. Keeping water in the same vicinity as it occurs naturally can avoid these economic and environmental costs. Keeping water local means using water in the same area where it originates, as efficiently as possible, and returning it to the ground so that it can replenish groundwater.
And, water is heavy – so reducing the amount of water that our communities have to pump, treat and move from one place to another not only saves the environment, but also saves energy, reduces municipal energy costs, and can help combat global warming.
Finally, saving water saves money! According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average household spends $500 per year on its water and sewer bill. By making just a few simple changes to use water more efficiently, households could save about $132 per year. If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $17 billion dollars per year! Also, when we use water more efficiently, we reduce the need for costly water supply infrastructure investments and new wastewater treatment facilities. Click here for more information from the EPA on how saving water saves money and energy.
How to Keep Water Local
Low impact development (LID) is the name given to a suite of management practices that preserve natural landscape features and drainage patterns, and minimize impacts of development on water and other natural resources. This project employs LID strategies to keep water local:
1. Use water as efficiently as possible to reduce water withdrawals
2. Reduce runoff
3. Store enough water on-site for outdoor use; store additional water in the ground
4. Treat wastewater locally (on-site)
5. Reuse water
6. Educate others about the keeping water local
Riverbend includes 15 acres of riverfront property and extensive wetlands. Thanks to the vision of the prior owner, Dr. Joseph Petranek, the buildings were sited away from the Ipswich River, which retains a forested shoreline area that is beneficial to river protection. Dr. Petranek also placed a conservation restriction that ensures that development activities are kept as far from the Ipswich River and wetlands on the site as possible, another key tenet of LID. The property has a well-maintained on-site septic system, which ensures that wastewater will be treated properly on site and then will replenish groundwater.
The Riverbend projects are located in the Ipswich River Watershed, which is a water source for the Town of Ipswich. The Town’s Winthrop Wells #2/3 upstream of the property are used most in summer to meet the Town’s increased water demand during those months; the use of riverside wells during low-flow periods depletes the river, and is a major concern. Thus our strategy focuses on reducing water withdrawals, and particularly on limiting the water used for landscaping purposes.
The Green Building Council recognizes the benefits of the measures we are taking at Riverbend to reduce water use and implement low impact development measures. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification process grants points for these and other measures, allowing an accounting of the ways in which we and others can make our building projects more environmentally friendly. IRWA is investigating steps needed to apply for LEED Certification for Riverbend.
This has been a truly collaborative project, with many individuals and partners who contributed to its success. IRWA wants to thank Emily Levin for efforts above and beyond the call of duty; Jeff Allsopp, Denise King and Georgia Flood whose time, energy and patience were instrumental; our fantastic interns Meredith Emery, Tim Becker, Francesca DeLuca and Jeff Gang, who made miracles happen; Paul Lauenstein for his research and advice; all the volunteers who helped prepare and plant the gardens, and all our project partners:
Massachusetts Riverways Program
Allsopp Design, Inc.
Clivus New England, Inc.
Corliss Wholesale Supply
Denise King Landscape Design
Georgia Flood Design
Gerber Plumbing Fixtures, Inc. (Ed.Os Manufacturer’s Representative)
H.L. Graham Associates, Inc., Civil Engineers
Nicolock Paving Stones of New England (SF RIMATM)
Nunan Florist & Greenhouses, Inc.
Rainwater Recovery, Inc.
Savoie Architecture, Inc.
Sunshine Sign Company