Nashua River in Harvard MA - photo by Kristopher Kvenvold

Protecting Harvard's Waterways: NRWA to Expand Water Monitoring in Harvard

Did you know that the 10-mile stretch of the Nashua River which runs through Harvard, including the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge (Oxbow NWR), is state-listed as impaired by E.coli bacteria? Are you aware that at least one invasive water chestnut plant was removed from that same stretch of river last year? The NRWA will be expanding its efforts to address these issues beginning this summer as part of its project, "Protecting Our Waterways: Aquatic Invasive Surveys and Bacterial Testing in Harvard and the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge," with funding from the Foundation for MetroWest.

The NRWA currently monitors water quality and stream conditions at one location on Bowers Brook, with sampling once per month over seven months each season. As part of this project, monitoring will be expanded with two to three additional sites in Harvard and at the Oxbow NWR, and samples will be collected weekly during the months of July and August.  The results will be used to create a "River Report Card" that will be posted on NRWA's website, shared with local papers, town and state officials, and the Oxbow NWR. The information will also be used to post alerts to notify the public when water conditions do not meet swimming or boating standards.

Additionally, the NRWA will undertake an aquatic invasives survey of river reaches in Harvard and the Oxbow NWR, hand pulling any water chestnut plants that are located. Early hand removal of individual plants is vital to prevent the aggressive spread of this plant that is responsible for the current 90-acre infestation of the Nashua River in the Pepperell and Groton area. Local residents may be aware of similar efforts undertaken on Bare Hill Pond. NRWA will work cooperatively with the Friends of the Oxbow, and information garnered from the survey will be shared with the Oxbow NWR and the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, strengthening capacity to undertake a regional approach to water chestnuts.

As part of this project, the NRWA will be looking for volunteers in Harvard to assist with stream monitoring and invasive surveying and removal. Educational presentations will also be made to the public, the first being "Protecting Harvard's Waterways" on March 26th at 7:00 p.m. in Volunteers Hall at the Harvard Public Library.  The public is invited to attend this free presentation to learn more about this project and opportunities for volunteer participation.

Established in 1995, the Foundation for MetroWest is the only community foundation serving the 33 cities and towns in the MetroWest region, connecting the philanthropic interests of donors with demonstrated need in the areas of Family Support, Arts & Culture, Environment and Youth Development. The Foundation has granted over $9 million to charitable organizations and currently stewards more than $15 million in charitable assets for current needs and future impact. Learn more about the Foundation for MetroWest. 

To learn more about this NRWA project, the presentation on March 26th, or to volunteer, please contact Kathryn Nelson, NRWA's Water Monitoring Coordinator, at (978) 448-0299, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..