Working Towards a Resilient Region

Watertown is doing a lot on its own to combat climate change, but did you know that we also participate in multiple regional efforts too? With something as global a problem as climate change, it turns out we can better tackle big issues like flooding and natural resource protection if we work together on a larger scale. Through organizations like the Charles River Watershed Association and initiatives like the Resilient Mystic Collaborative, Watertown is working to improve climate conditions beyond our municipal borders. After all, nature doesn’t observe town boundaries! 

So, what’s a watershed?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay, or any point along a river or stream. Most of Watertown is located within the Charles River Watershed, which stretches from Somerville to Lincoln all the way to Wrentham. A small portion along the northern boundary of Watertown is located within the Mystic River Watershed, which extends to communities such as Lexington, Everett, and Stoneham. Watertown could be affected by the actions—or inaction—of other communities within our watersheds, which is another reason it’s important to work collaboratively on shared goals, such as regional flood reduction.


Charles River Climate Compact

The Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was founded back in 1965 with a long-term, and ongoing, goal to protect, restore, and enhance the Charles River and its watershed. The fifteen communities that are part of the Charles River Climate Compact (including Watertown) recently teamed up to develop a Charles River watershed flood model. This initiative is intended to produce both much needed technical information about where and when precipitation-driven flood risk is expected to be exacerbated by climate change, and bring consistency across watershed communities in regards to how we are planning and governing for expected climate impacts. This flood model is something that would be near impossible for Watertown to achieve on its own, given the cost and complicated nature of the project. The preliminary results are viewable on this interactive map!


Resilient Mystic Collaborative

The Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC), spearheaded by the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), is a coalition of 20 municipalities in the watershed motivated to tackle climate threats together. The idea came out of a sense of urgency to work across political boundaries to address challenges that are beyond a single town’s control. Even though only a small sliver of Watertown is within the Mystic Watershed, our participation in efforts such as this are so important because of the knowledge and resources gained from regional collaboration. The RMC is currently undertaking a regional heat and humidity study of the watershed, entitled Wicked Hot Mystic. The heat maps will allow towns like ours to prioritize investments into the hottest urban heat islands. Repeating transects of the same locations over time will allow us to measure the cost effectiveness of various interventions. The final maps are expected to be completed in 2022.


How can I get involved?

The Mystic River Watershed Association has plenty of volunteer opportunities, whether you’d rather pick up trash along a stream bank or advocate for sustainability policy at the state level. The Charles River Watershed Association also has a diverse range of ways to volunteer. And both organizations host a ton of (currently virtual) educational and just-for-fun events throughout the year. Check out these calendars (MyRWA and CRWA) for more info!