Watershed and Water Quality Management

Water Quality and Watershed Management Planning

Nothing but the water

We wear many planning hats
As the officially designated Areawide Water Quality Management Planning Agency for the Merrimack Valley, MVPC has considerable expertise in water resources planning and protection. Since the 1980s, MVPC has conducted numerous water quality planning and implementation projects in the Merrimack, Parker, Ipswich, North Coastal and Shawsheen River Basins. Many involved funding obtained under Sections 205(j), 604(b), and 319 of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Little River Project
This comprehensive, 18-month investigation of the Little River, a major tributary of the lower Parker River in Newbury and Newburyport, was funded by a water quality management planning grant from the Department of Environmental Protection. Periodic testing of the Little River by the Division of Marine Fisheries revealed elevated bacteria levels in select reaches of the river. Believed to derive from various residential neighborhoods, commercial/industrial sites, and working farms in the area, this pollution was degrading water quality and forcing the closure of commercially valuable shellfish beds in the Parker River and Plum Island Sound.

In partnership with MassDEP and DMF biologists, the Parker River Clean Water Association, and Newbury and Newburyport officials, MVPC launched a five-step watershed program:

  1. Researched relevant local/state records and conducted extensive field surveys to produce parcel-based databases and GIS maps of existing land use and potential non-point sources of pollution in the Little River sub-watershed
  2. Performed intensive water quality sampling along the Little River mainstem and tributaries to identify bacterial pollution “hotspots” and trace their sources
  3. Evaluated the adequacy of current local non-point source pollution control strategies and practices
  4. Developed recommendations to enhance pollution control measures where appropriate
  5. Educated municipal officials, businesses, residents, and other watershed stakeholders about best management practices for controlling non-point source pollution

Lake Cochichewick Watershed Study
Conducted in cooperation with the Town of North Andover Water Department, this two-year study of Lake Cochichewick’s watershed, North Andover’s principal water supply, was modeled after the state’s Clean Lakes Program. This study inventoried, mapped, and assessed the major causes of water quality degradation in the lake, and prescribed measures for lake restoration. MVPC developed the project work plan, assembled a technical team to conduct land use and water quality analyses, and provided ongoing technical support (data collection and interpretation) and overall project administration. Based on this study, North Andover instituted a series of watershed protection measures, including large-lot zoning with incentives for cluster-style development, a municipal water supply protection bylaw, a septic system data management program, and acquisition/preservation of over 100 acres of prime open space previously slated for development.


The Merrimack Valley is a picturesque home to marshes, beaches, forests, fields and wildlife. We work with many community organizations and concerned citizens to protect these natural resources and bring development and preservation balance to the region.

  • Merrimack Valley Planning Commission
    160 Main Street
    Haverhill, MA 01830
    p: 978.374.0519
    f: 978.372.4890
    e: info@mvpc.org

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