Do You Know Your Watershed?

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Neponset Watershed map

Neponset River Watershed

Did you know?  Sharon is part of the Neponset River Watershed, a 120-square mile area that drains into the Neponset River.

A watershed is the area of land that drains into a body of water, like a river, pond, harbor or lake. A watershed is sometimes referred to as a “river basin,” a “river valley,” or a “drainage basin.”

A watershed might contain a variety of landscapes, ecosystems, and man-made structures. For instance, a watershed could include forests, parking lots, mountains, wetlands, hills, streams, apartment complexes, ponds, cities, lakes, businesses, towns, landfills, state parks, etc. Everybody in each community is affected by water use and water quality throughout the watershed.

girl on log vernal poolR.Russell2003The Neponset River Watershed includes parts of 14 cities and towns: Boston (Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Dorchester), Canton, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Medfield, Milton, Norwood, Randolph, Quincy, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole and Westwood.

  • Roughly 300,000 people live in the watershed.
  • The Neponset River, itself, runs for 30 miles through the middle of the watershed.
  • The River starts in Foxboro, near Gillette Stadium, and ends in Dorchester/Quincy, near the Boston Gas tank by I-93.

The Neponset has come a long way from its days as a severely polluted industrial river. Today, most streams in the Neponset River system meet swimmable standards during dry weather, and much of the river has been opened up for canoeing, bike paths and waterfront parks.

Neponset River Watershed Association

Neponset_logos_vertical_CMYKThe Neponset River Watershed Association is a grassroots, member-supported conservation group working to clean up and protect the Neponset River, its tributaries and surrounding watershed lands.  Members, volunteers and staff work in your neighborhood, every day, to stop water pollution, educate area residents, monitor river health, conserve water, open the watershed to recreation, and restore fish and wildlife habitats.

Hyde Park Clean up volunteers pulling trashMember support makes all the difference in protecting and restoring the Neponset River and its watershed, but the River needs more friends!  Consider joining the Watershed Association!

Jan. 13-17 – Sharon High School Water Conservation Poster Exhibit, Doric Hall, MA State House

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Ransom poster for webSharon High School Graphic Design Students to Exhibit Water Conservation Posters at the Massachusetts State House

Posters will be on display in Doric Hall from Jan. 13-17, with an artist’s reception on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 10am.

As part of an on-going program in the town of Sharon, MA to create awareness about water conservation, Sharon High School graphic design students were presented with information on the topic of water conservation, followed by a challenge to create informational posters for the public.  Students researched water conservation issues, chose their own headlines, and designed their posters (and original artwork) in the Art Nouveau style, using Adobe Illustrator.

The water conservation poster project was a collaborative effort between the Neponset River Watershed Association’s Water Conservation Coordinator, Nancy Fyler, and Sharon High School’s media arts teacher, Janine Roberto, and was funded by the Sharon Water Department and Sharon High School’s F.A.M.E. Program.

For more information, contact Nancy Fyler:  fyler@neponset.org

National Recognition for our Water Conservation Program!

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WSlogo_Excellence2013_colorEPA Recognizes Sharon, Mass. for Water Conservation Efforts

(Boston, Mass. – Nov. 18, 2013) – EPA recently gave nation recognition to the Town of Sharon, Mass. for the Town’s efforts to educate and inform citizens about practical ways to conserve water and thus save money.  The recognition was under EPA’s WaterSense program.

The Town of Sharon was awarded for “Excellence in Outreach and Education.” With assistance and input from the Neponset River Watershed Association, the Town launched a program to educate local citizens on the benefits of water efficiency. The program has shown results: using concentrated education and outreach tactics, water efficiency is catching on in the town.

“New Englanders have always been practical and forward-thinking when it comes to protecting our environment.  We are proud that the Town of Sharon, along with its partnership with the Neponset River Watershed Association, is taking wise steps to save water and resources,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We all can save water and protect the environment by choosing WaterSense labeled products in our homes, yards and businesses, and by taking simple steps to save water each day.”

Starting with its youngest citizens, an in-school initiative in Sharon schools taught students about water conservation and provided take-home materials to educate parents about water efficiency in the home. High school students developed effective and informative public service announcements on the topics of water efficiency and conservation, videos for which were broadcast on the town’s local cable station. Students also designed informational posters which were hung up in municipal buildings throughout the town.  In addition, the Town of Sharon celebrated the 2012 Fix a Leak Week in style by stringing a banner across the town’s Main Street and encouraging all residents to install WaterSense labeled products and embrace water-efficient practices at home.

“The partnership forged between the Neponset River Watershed Association and the Town of Sharon Water Department has resulted in both groups doing what they do best towards providing a sustainable water supply to the residents of Sharon,” said Eric Hooper, Sharon DPW Superintendent.

The Town has seen great progress on water use reductions as a result of the outreach and education.  Sharon’s award-winning water conservation program has reduced the town’s water use by 100 million gallons per year – the equivalent of adding a new water supply well.  In 2012, Sharon’s average water use was 58 gallons per person per day, yet many households get down to under 30.  EPA estimates the national average usage at about 100 gallons per person per day.

“Water conservation is a great win-win-win strategy for our communities, our ratepayers, and our streams and rivers,” said Neponset River Watershed Association Executive Director, Ian Cooke.  “Every gallon we save, helps reduce infrastructure costs, regulatory compliance costs, and water bills, while helping to keep our streams and rivers flowing healthy for family recreation, fish and wildlife.”

More information:

The WaterSense program makes it easy to save. Just look for the label on toilets, faucets, irrigation controllers and many other products http://www.epa.gov/watersense/

Making the Energy-Water Connection!

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Shower head, blurred, canon 1Ds mark III

We turn on the bathroom lights and the shower without realizing how closely related water and energy are to each other.

October is Energy Awareness Month, which is a good time to consider how energy, water, and money are wasted every day in our homes.

Most of us know about the importance of saving energy and water, but few of us make the connection that it takes energy to pump, heat, treat, and deliver the water we use every day.

According to the EPA WaterSense Program, American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year.  And vast amounts of water are used to cool the power plants that generate electricity.

One of the simplest ways to save water, energy and money is to install water efficient products.  Replacing older toilets, faucets, and showerheads with WaterSense labeled appliances will save resources while ensuring product performance.

For example, just replacing a standard 2.5 gallon per minute (gpm) showerhead, with a WaterSense labeled model of 2.0 gpm or less, can save 2,900 gallons of water per year—the amount of water it takes to wash more than 70 loads of laundry.

Luckily for Sharon residents, the Water Department offers WaterSense labeled showerheads (and faucet aerators) to residents, free of charge, making it easier than ever to start conserving!  Simply visit the Department of Public Works during regular business hours:

Mon.-Wed. 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Thursday 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM

In addition, the Water Department offers generous rebates for replacing older toilets and clothes washers with more water efficient models.  Toilets need to be WaterSense labeled and use 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) or less, and clothes washers need to be Energystar rated, with a water factor of 4.5 or less.  Call the Water Department with questions: 781-784-1525 x2315

EPA promolabel_blue_look(1)All WaterSense labeled products are tested and independently certified to ensure they meet EPA’s criteria for both efficiency and performance.  Look for the WaterSense label when making your purchase.

For more information on the WaterSense Program:  www.epa.gov/watersense

Drought tolerant grass seed available at DPW

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Drought tolerant fescue grass

As summer is fading, it’s time to consider fall lawn care.  Re-seeding your lawn with drought tolerant fescue grass seed will help to conserve water by reducing the need for irrigation.  The best time to plant fescue grasses is when the daytime temperatures are between 60 & 75 degrees.

The DPW is selling a drought tolerant fescue grass seed blend for $25 per 20lb. bag, available to residents on a first come, first served basis, with a two bag maximum.

Call Evelyn at 781-784-1525 x2314 to place your order.

For more information on fescue grasses, please visit: www.fescue.com

What do you mean, the beach is closed?

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Memorial Beach, Sharon, MA

Last month, on a sweltering day in July, I decided to seek relief at Lake Massapoag.  I gathered my things and drove to the beach, eager to jump into the cool water, only to be told by the lifeguard that the swimming area was closed due to a high bacteria count – and it was the fifth day in a row!

Although the water looked beautiful and pristine from a distance, the area had become a feeding ground for geese, and the resulting goose poop had contaminated the water. Fortunately, the Sharon Board of Health tests the lake water twice a week, and they were able to close the beach until the bacteria dissipated.

stormwater runnoff at DCR ponkapoag golf course

Storm drains discharge to streams, ponds, and wetlands.

Unfortunately, goose poop is only one of the contaminants that can affect the health of our waterways. Household chemicals, lawn fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil, and dog poop are also major contributors to water pollution.

When rainwater flows over land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates these various contaminants, which then flow into storm drains that discharge to streams, ponds, or wetlands – often with little or no treatment. This “toxic soup” is referred to as “stormwater runoff.” 

While we can’t control everything that goes into the lake, we can work together to prevent water pollution by being conscientious about proper disposal of pet waste and chemicals. The town is aware of the goose problem and is working to eliminate the issue, but the beach could have just as easily been closed due to bacteria from dog waste left on the ground, or from excess runoff polluted with other contaminants.

Seemingly little things, like picking up after a dog or sweeping up spilled fertilizer, might not appear to be a big deal, but the cumulative effect of these choices can make a big impact on the quality of the water around us.

End of Summer Lawn Care

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sprinkler-system

Irrigating your lawn during periods of drought uses our municipal drinking water at a time when water supplies are most stressed.

August can be a tough month on lawns as precipitation diminishes and heat increases.  It can also be a difficult time for our groundwater supply, as water levels in rivers and streams become stressed as well.  When contemplating lawn care during this season, keep in mind that grass normally goes dormant and brown, but it’s still alive, and will turn green and start growing when the rains come again.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to keep an eye on the weather before running a sprinkler system.  We’ve all seen irrigation systems running during a rain storm, which is a huge waste of water, energy, and resources.  Lawns need just 1″ of water a week to stay green, and often times are over watered by older, outdated irrigation systems, which generally run on a preset schedule with no consideration for weather.  For the best water efficiency, irrigation systems should be upgraded to a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller, which uses local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the site, telling the irrigation system when to turn on and off.

Finally, during these final months of summer, please remember to follow the town water restrictions, which are in place to make sure that there is enough water for public health and for fire fighting.  There is no difference between the water that comes out of your kitchen sink or your outside spigot – it’s the only water we have – so let’s use it wisely.

Redirect your downspout

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downspout diverter web

Redirect your downspout to irrigate your lawn, shrubs or garden.

Many downspouts send rain water down driveways and sidewalks, and eventually down the street to a storm drain.

You can make better use of that water, and help keep our water ways clean, by redirecting your downspouts so that the water flows toward your lawn, shrubs, rain barrel, or rain garden.

stormwater runnoff at DCR ponkapoag golf course

Storm drains discharge water to streams, ponds, and wetlands.

Water that flows over impervious or hard surfaces, such as driveways and sidewalks, picks up pollutants from motor oil, lawn chemicals, and pet waste along the way, and eventually delivers it to our rivers, streams and ponds. This water is referred to as “stormwater runoff”, and the pollutants in the runoff can make our water ways unsightly—and unhealthy for kids, pets, fishing, boating and wildlife.

Try redirecting your downspouts to reuse rain water, and help prevent water pollution at the same time!