The NSRWA was created in 1970 by a handful of South Shore river-lovers. They were bound together by a devotion to the watershed’s natural beauty and a desire to protect it for their own use, and for generations to come. NSRWA began as a group of 400 South Shore residents and has grown to over 1,500 household members. Today, we are a passionate band of individuals, families, businesses, and other environmental organizations from throughout the South Shore that value our waters for people and wildlife.

If you are a South Shore resident who enjoys the outdoors, you are part of our story…and you always will be.

“I originally got involved with NSRWA as a citizen scientist, trying to count fish in a river that didn’t have any—the First Herring Brook in Scituate. So, it was very emotional for me to come full circle as director in 2011, when we spotted a herring in that river.”

~ Samantha Woods, NSRWA Director

Our History

It all started with sparrows.

Endangered Salt Marsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacutus)
Jean Foley, NSRWA Founder

In 1969, a Scituate resident named Jean Foley was birdwatching around the North River salt marshes when she noticed that two types of sparrows she often spotted there were missing. Where did they go? Jean wondered if the new Driftway condo development built along the marsh had anything to do with it. Concerned, Jean contacted the Scituate town hall. When officials failed to investigate, Jean took action. She had a hunch that the disappearance of the birds was a sign of broader ecological problems. Jean sounded the alarm, and recruited other people she thought would care. They included water resource specialists, state environmental agency employees, a wildlife biologist, an attorney, and local conservation commission members—all residents of watershed towns. The following spring, Jean and her husband Jack hosted the first organizational meeting of the group that would become the North and South Rivers Watershed Association (NSRWA). The rest, as they say, is history…

1970s
  • The North and South Rivers Watershed Association, Inc. is established on July 13, 1970 as a private, non-profit corporation.
  • Successfully petitioned both the North and South Rivers recognized by the US Dept of the Interior as National Natural Landmarks, “possessing national significance in illustrating the natural character of the United States”.
  • North River Scenic Protective Order enacted making it the first and only state scenic protected river
1980s
  • The NSRWA hires its first professional staff and brings suit against the Scituate Wastewater Treatment Plant, forcing the town to address operational problems. Today, the plant regularly emits clean effluent into the river.
1990s
  • Started citizen led water quality monitoring program and fixing storm drain systems to remove pollution, both continue today.
  • Opened 293 acres of North River shellfish beds from pollution clean up efforts
  • Water monitoring identifies the need for sewering in Marshfield to clean up the South River
2000s
  • Passed funding for sewering Marshfield to stop failing septic systems from contaminating the South River
  • Started our regional our WaterSmart to educate the public about water conservation and pollution
  • Opened 314 acres of South River shellfish beds from November 1 – May 31,
  • Passed lawn watering restrictions in Scituate to allow for streamflow releases downstream for herring migration in First Herring Brook
  • Passed the Community Preservation Act in South Shore towns (CPA), saving over 400 acres along the North and South Rivers and over 1 ,800 acres across the South Shore
  • Became the host of the EPA’s MassBays South Shore program to provide technical support to restore embayments throughout the South Shore
2010s
  • Each year 2,500 students and 350 parent volunteers from 10 communities on the South Shore participate in our Water All Around You program (part of the WaterSmart program)
  • Expanded citizen science monitoring efforts to include river herring, horseshoe crabs and salt marshes
  • Expanded outdoor recreation and engagement through our nature and history pontoon boat tours and Estuary Explorer programming
  • After a decade of education and fundraising removed two dams on the Third Herring Brook opening up over 8 miles of stream for migrating and native fish
  • The NSRWA grows to over 1,500 members to protect our waters!

2010 Video Celebrating 40 Years of Saving the Rivers Together 

50 Years of Protecting Our Waters