Water Conservation

We need your help to protect our most precious resource: water.

The Ipswich River Watershed provides drinking water to 335,000 people and thousands of businesses in 14 communities in northeastern Massachusetts. These water withdrawals can dry up the Ipswich River, which is considered one of the most endangered rivers in America.  Parts of the Parker River are also pumped dry regularly in the summer.

We need your help to protect our most precious resource: water.

Do you know how much water you use on a daily basis or where your drinking water comes from?  The Ipswich River Watershed Association unveiled a new website in May 2012, to help North Shore residents, businesses and communities save water. SaveWaterNorthShore.org will help you save money and energy, and help save our rivers, too!

IRWA also provides regional leadership on water conservation. We focus on outreach and education to three groups: municipalities, watershed residents, and businesses.

Educating Municipalities on Water Conservation

Rain barrels collect clean rainwater from your roof so you can stockpile it when it’s plentiful and use it later during dry times.

The Ipswich River’s water deficit is increasing, due to unsustainable management, development and landscaping practices. Two areas where the trend is worsening are summertime lawnwatering (where 15 million gallons a day are lost to evapotranspiration),and sanitary sewers, which export both dirty wastewater and clean groundwater from the watershed. The result, The Ipswich River is one of the most flow stressed rivers in the United States, going dry roughly every other year the past decade.

IRWA is working with communities to promote innovative financing mechanisms to fund municipal water conservation programs. A recent report provides recommendations for a water demand mitigation program in the Town of Ipswich.

IRWA has also developed a resource for communities: Water Wise Communities – A Handbook for Municipal Managers in the Ipswich River Watershed. The handbook provides a checklist and fact sheets summarizing 20 tools that communities can use to manage water resources and restore the Ipswich River. Many of these tools address water conservation.

In November 2005, IRWA held the second River Restoration Conference, which focused on highlighting water conservation and low-impact development opportunities to municipal officials and interested members of the public. Conference proceedings are summarized here (Word format).

IRWA developed a Regional Water Conservation Plan that provides guidelines and minimum standards for municipal water conservation programs in the watershed.

For many years, IRWA and Mass Audubon produced a Water Conservation Report Card grading each town’s performance in six categories related to water use, including water use trends, residential water use, seasonal water use, non-account water, records and reports, and water rates. The most recent Water Conservation Report Card is available here:Water Conservation Report Card (2002) (pdf).

In 2003, IRWA worked with Energy New England to help several towns in the Ipswich River Watershed develop water conservation plans and conduct water audits. The work culminated in a water conservation plan for North Reading, a future demand and conservation potential report for Middleton, a rate structure assessment for Wilmington, and a water system audit to help the city of Lynn reduce unaccounted-for water.

Educating Residents on Water Conservation

Wenham Lake was set aside as a water reservoir for Salem and Beverly in 1913. Water is diverted from the Ipswich River through Salem Beverly Waterway Canal. The total current authorized withdrawal is 11.31 million gallons a day. The loss of 10-11 mgd from the Ipswich River Watershed represents a significant water deficit for the river system.

Residents of the Ipswich River watershed can take many steps to use water efficiently. If you live in the watershed or in the cities of Beverly, Salem, or Lynn, your water comes from the Ipswich River, either directly or through groundwater wells that divert water from the river.

Residential water use has a major effect on the river’s health. Did you know that the amount of water needed to restore natural flows in the river – an estimated 14.4 million gallons per day – is about equal to the estimated amount used for lawn watering?

IRWA developed the Greenscapes North Shore program to educate watershed residents on ways to reduce their water use in lawns and gardens, and use environmentally friendly landscaping methods.

Water-friendly demonstration projects are taking root around the Ipswich River watershed including at our headquarters, Riverbend. These projects showcase techniques that residents and businesses can use to conserve water, recycle rainwater, and treat and recharge stormwater on their property.

IRWA has also produced educational brochures on water conservation. Please click here to download our “How to Save Water” and “Water-Wise Lawns” brochures.

Educating Businesses on Water Conservation

IRWA has developed a webpage to educate businesses about saving water and money through water conservation. It includes links to success stories about Massachusetts businesses that are taking a leadership role on water efficiency and reuse. SaveWaterNorthShore.org also has water saving tips for businesses.