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It can be tough to be a river in Massachusetts.

We’ve dammed rivers for power, flood control, and to create water supply reservoirs, which interrupt the river's natural flow and inhibit fish passage. Sometimes drought and excessive withdrawals cause rivers to have extremely low flow, or even run dry. We discharge treated sewage and industrial waste into our rivers, roads, parking lots and rooftops send warm runoff into storm drains, picking up road salt, sand, nutrients from fertilizers, dog and goose poop, gas and oil, and other pollutants en route to the nearest river or stream. Combined sewer overflows send millions of gallons of raw sewage into rivers each year, following storms.  


The resulting problems include unnaturally low flows, eutrophication (growth of green algae and other nuisance aquatic plants), and decreases in wildlife species that need clean, cold water to thrive. Water pollution and low flow can make it difficult to enjoy boating, fishing or swimming our rivers - and sometimes even walking along them. And most of these problems are exacerbated by climate change’s increasingly severe and frequent droughts and storms. Finally, like many other environmental challenges, these problems can disproportionately affect poorer communities, both urban and rural, and communities of color.


The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance was created to address these issues, and since our founding in 2007, we have been doing exactly that. We work with a large and varied group of partners, including our member organizations and other nonprofit groups, government agency leaders, municipalities, planners, legislators, and many others to develop solutions and push for change.  We are proud of the progress we’ve made so far. You can read about some of our accomplishments here and you can learn more about river challenges and our ongoing work in this section. Click the links below to learn more about each challenge:


Dam removals


Alex Hackman, Ecological Restoration Specialist

Culvert replacements


Carrie Banks, Stream Continuity Restoration Planner 


Aquatic invasives


Jim Straub, Program Coordinator



Tom Flannery, Aquatic Ecologist


State and Local Contacts for River Issues

Stormwater pollution

  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

  • MassDEP is located at 1 Winter Street, Boston, MA 02114.


Laura Schifman, State Stormwater Coordinator  



Wetlands encroachment


Coldwater streams


Adam Kautza, Coldwater Fishery Resource Project Leader 



Fish kills

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