North & South Rivers Watershed Association

New Hope for Maintaining Streamflow in First Herring Brook

By George Humphrey, Scituate

In collaboration with the Scituate Department of Public Works, the MassBays Program and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the NSRWA has been shepherding two projects designed to maximize the use of existing water resources in a manner that will protect the fragile ecosystems in Scituate’s watershed. The Reservoir Dam Water Storage and Fish Passage Improvements Project, which has received $465,239 in state funding over the past six years, will increase the town’s reservoir storage by approximately 35 million gallons – enough to supply residents for an additional 28 days in the event of a severe drought, such as the one that occurred in 2016. Once completed, the project will also restore 70 acres of herring habitat by allowing the fish ladder to run during the crucial spring and fall breeding cycle, and will ensure adequate streamflow to support the general environmental health of First Herring Brook.

In a related project, the NSRWA’s Sara Grady has developed two calculating tools that will assist Scituate DPW officials in managing outflows from the Scituate reservoir and modeling the impact of special conditions such as a temporary well shutdown, unusually dry or wet weather, and unforeseen infrastructure issues. Using historical data supplied by town and state agencies, Sara has calibrated the tools to provide reliable information that will help maintain adequate streamflows in First Herring Brook, even during the high-demand summer months. Lacking such tools, the town opted to stop releasing flows from the reservoirs from mid-August to mid-October last year, in order to conserve their water supply – thus placing additional stress on the brook’s ecosystem.

Scituate has developed a water conservation plan that, when fully implemented, will help the town realize the full benefits of the reservoir dam project and related initiatives. As NSRWA Executive Director Samantha Woods emphasized at a recent public meeting in Scituate, “The best source of new water is conservation.” The next public meeting on the reservoir dam project will be held in May 2019.

Click here to see the Summary of the Scituate Reservoir Dam Water Storage and Fish Passage Improvements Project Public Meeting.

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