MISSION AND HISTORY
Mass Rivers’ mission is to protect and restore the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams. To be successful in this mission, we prioritize climate resilience and ensure that our river solutions also promote economic and racial justice locally. We believe every community in the state has the right to a clean healthy river, and every river in the state should be free of pollution. We work collaboratively with a mix of partners, and strive to build a movement that is inclusive of all backgrounds and demographics, and values the diverse perspectives they bring. One of our goals is to connect and empower our member organizations. Here is our most recent Strategic Plan.
Why a rivers alliance?
In 2007, the founders of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance created a new organization to fill a gap in the state’s environmental advocacy landscape. With some 25 watershed organizations working to improve their local rivers, the rivers had no dedicated, statewide champion. Without an organization that worked consistently on behalf of all the state’s rivers, rivers often lacked a seat at the tables where decisions were made – and a strong voice to speak up for them on both state and federal policy. Water pollution, dry streams, the spread of invasive plants such as toxic algae, aging water infrastructure, and climate change’s increasing floods and droughts went largely unaddressed by the Massachusetts legislature and state administrative agencies. Similarly, federal issues affecting the state’s river lacked consistent advocacy.
An effective statewide voice for rivers
The immediate impetus for the new group was the failure of the state’s Water Management Act regulations to account for and protect stream flows when the state allocated permission to use water. The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance worked hard to improve that program during a four‐year, multi‐stakeholder negotiation with the state. But that was just a start. In the years since, together with our partners, we’ve:
forced the EPA to implement stormwater management requirements across the state,
helped draft a 2014 state law to increase water infrastructure funding,
increased the number of municipal stormwater utilities around the state by educating 400 municipal staff and consultants about culvert replacements and stormwater utilities,
worked with state staff to significantly improve Massachusetts’ drought response plan, unveiled in 2019,
defeated several proposed bills that would have hurt rivers,
increased climate resiliency, environmental justice protection, and aquatic ecosystem protection in several major bills,
passed a sewage notification bill that was signed into law in 2021,
and won multi-million dollar increases in both annual state funding and capital budgets for key river protection agencies and programs for FY19, FY20, FY21, FY22, and FY23.
Mass Rivers is now the go‐to organization on water, serving as a resource for our colleagues in the environmental movement, the media, and for government staff, legislators, and many others.
Strengthening the movement
As a statewide organization, the communities we serve, and the challenges they face, are diverse.
Part of Mass Rivers' work is to learn and act alongside our member organizations and in promoting social and environmental justice, equitably distributed resources, diversity in outdoor spaces, access to recreational opportunities, and inclusion of all people in decision-making spaces in Massachusetts.
This means working for a more sustainable future where all residents have reliable, clean drinking water, safe and plentiful opportunities for recreation in and around waterways, and less toxic water pollution in their neighborhoods.
Our member groups are key to our success in improving river protection in Massachusetts. We regularly convene our members to organize, connect, and educate ourselves, and to encourage peer-to-peer learning and sharing of resources.
Mass Rivers staff stay in close touch with our member groups to build support for our priorities, but also to make sure our goals align with their local perspective. With almost 80 groups in our alliance, ours is an active, knowledgeable and engaged membership. We have strength in our numbers!