History & Accomplishments

work_as_a_team_summer2014cThe 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.

We are a small organization with a record of big accomplishments.

  • Convening the Parker-Ipswich-Essex Rivers Restoration Partnership (PIE-Rivers) in 2011, which is a regional network of organizations, governmental agencies and individuals all working to promote healthy rivers and ecosystems in the coastal rivers of northeastern Massachusetts. The PIE-Rivers Partnership increases communication, coordination and collaboration between those involved in restoration, preservation and management of the watersheds and is funded by a grant from the Cox Foundation.
  • In 2013, a subset of our PIE-Rivers Partners received over $3 million dollars from the federal Hurricane Sandy Grant Program to support restoration work throughout the Great Marsh Watershed. As part of that effort, our partners will collectively invest nearly two million dollars in our Free Our Rivers Campaign to improve habitat conditions through dam removal and ecologically safe bridge and culvert designs. The centerpiece of this effort is the removal of the South Middleton Dam on the Ipswich River, the first ever main-stem dam removal in the region. It will restore migratory fish access to over one quarter of the watershed and provide boating access through this currently inaccessible stretch of the river.
  • Establishing a new headquarters, Riverbend, in 2007 on a beautiful 20-acre riverfront property with a dock and boats available for member use; 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.
  • Spearheading cutting-edge scientific studies of the Ipswich River, identifying the causes and environmental impacts of its severe low-flow problems and potential solutions.
  • Celebrating our sixteenth 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.
  • 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 our favor that existing water withdrawal authorizations violate state law.
  • 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.
  • Developing 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 former Executive Director Kerry Mackin a River Hero in May 2007; Mackin has also received a Merit Award for our 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 our 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.