First Herring Brook

The Town of Scituate receives 80% of its municipal water supply from the First Herring Brook watershed, and the town Reservoir and the withdrawal site for the water supply, Old Oaken Bucket Pond (a.k.a. Greenbush Pond) are part of the First Herring Brook. After leaving Old Oaken Bucket Pond, the First Herring Brook enters the Herring River at the Driftway and from there flows into the North River. Water withdrawals, impounding, and an increasingly developed watershed have impacted natural stream flows, limiting its ability to support migratory fish like herring. Since 2007, the Town has worked to create a multi-pronged approach to balancing municipal water demand and ecological flow requirements, with the end goal of restoring more natural conditions and providing adequate flow for herring migration. Since implementing flow requirements, our herring counters have documented small numbers of fish each spring after decades of no herring at all.


The First Herring Brook Restoration Project began in earnest with a modeling effort in 2007 that involved many local, state, and federal partners. The water resources in the First Herring Brook were modeled by the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (MassDER) using the Water Evaluation and Planning Model (WEAP), developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute. The model results included confirmation that the current fish ladders required too much water to operate, that the Water Division should release water according to streamflows based on a natural flow regime, and that additional water (through a new source or conservation) was needed to operate the system to benefit both the Town and the First Herring Brook.

Irrigation Restriction

As part of the restoration effort, the Town of Scituate, with support from the NSRWA, created a watering restriction in 2011 that allows households on town water supply to use outdoor irrigation systems one day a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day with a goal of consistently providing more water in the surface water system in late summer and fall. After four years of implementation, the town has saved ~300,000 gallons/day each summer.

Water Division Operational Plan

Scituate started releasing streamflow from the Reservoir and Old Oaken Bucket Pond in October of 2011 according to an agreed upon operational plan that allows for more natural streamflow downstream of the dams. During each season (or bioperiod) the town releases enough water to meet a streamflow that would occur or be exceeded 90% of the time. This has provided adequate flow year-round for natural stream processes and the migration of river herring, except during periods of drought. Data on the success of the operational plan is collected by the NSRWA and MassDER through a combination of stream gauges and water level loggers.

Fish Ladder and Reservoir Improvements

The Town of Scituate has received two MassDEP Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) grants, in 2013 and 2014, to study ways to make improvements to the ability of its dams to pass fish while also conserving water. In 2013, the grant focused on installing weirs in the Old Oaken Bucket fish ladder, preliminary design of improvements to the Reservoir dam and fish ladder, and analysis of the benefits of increasing the Reservoir elevation. In 2014, the grant focused on further investigation into improvements to the Reservoir dam and fish ladder and the potential to increase its elevation, including survey, groundwater level monitoring, and agency and public outreach. The next step will be to seek funding for final design and permitting.