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Home > Watershed > CRWA and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)


Watershed Maps | Project Maps | Interactive Online Mapping | OLIVER

What is GIS?

Image credit: http://www.gis.com

GIS, which stands for Geographical Information Systems, is a collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data for managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically-referenced information.

GIS is a powerful planning and analysis tool that relates information stored in a database to the geographic location it describes.  CRWA uses GIS in many of its projects in a variety of ways from water quality modeling to generating basic water quality maps.  Brief descriptions and examples of maps are provided below. 

Charles River Watershed Maps

GIS can be used to generate cartographic maps representing watershed features, their boundaries and spatial relationships.  CRWA frequently uses data provided by MassGIS and other state and local entities, but also develops our own project-specific data in-house.  Below are some watershed maps created by CRWA (click on the map to view a larger version):

Watershed hydrography and dam locations

Watershed land use

Charles River Watershed Association Projects - Specific Maps

  • Monthly Volunteer Monitoring
    With the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, CRWA conducts monthly water quality monitoring at 35 sites throughout the watershed. Results are displayed in a color coded map created in a GIS, and also using GoogleEarth™ a free online GIS-based program.
  • Environmentally Sensitive Urban Development
    CRWA is using our scientific, advocacy and coalition building experience to create a replicable process for environmentally sensitive urban development. The "Blue Cities Initiative" focuses on three distinct urban redevelopment areas: the Harvard Allston campus; the New Charles River Basin; and the Longwood Medical and Academic Area.
  • Total Maximum Daily Loads

        During the summer of 2005, CRWA performed an aquatic plant survey at nine ponds and three  

        reaches of the upper Charles River.  The purpose of the survey was to determine the biomass of

        aquatic plants in each pond to be used in calibrating the Charles River TMDL model and to

        quantify the extent and density of aquatic plant coverage that may be used to assess aesthetic

        and designated use impacts. Click here to find out more about the Aquatic Vegetation Survey!

  • REAL Planning
    Over a period of six years, CRWA has developed a land analysis methodology, we call Resource, Environmental, and Land (REAL) Planning, which has been referred to in its first iterations locally as "environmental zoning." REAL Planning identifies those land areas where development of any kind should simply be avoided. Maps for this project show priority conservation lands, current and future land use.
  • Water Budgets - coming soon!
    CRWA is under contract to perform a statewide water budget analysis for every town in Massachusetts, allowing an accurate approach to analyze, quantify and account for water that enters and leaves a watershed, and determine the real sources of water problems.

Interactive Online Mapping

MassGIS, Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, among others offer interactive online mapping tools where you can search by address or zoom in and out to your site of interest.  Click on one of the hot links below to explore maps in the Charles River watershed.

Want to explore more maps?  Check out MassGIS's online mapping home page.


For more advanced mapping and data viewing, try MassGIS’s OnLIne data ViewER, or OLIVER.  This will allow you to generate your own, personalized maps by adding and organizing MassGIS data layers and give you access to their attributes stored in the MassGIS database.  Data served here is downloadable in ESRI Shapefile and Raster formats.  In the near future, CRWA will develop its own, project-specific data available for viewing and downloading.  For a tutorial in how to use OLIVER, click here and scroll down to "Documentation".

If you have Java, click here to launch OLIVER and explore the Charles River Watershed! 
Don’t have Java?  Cick here to get it, then come back and click the above link



CRWA's mapping capabilities are made possible through the generous support of ESRI, Inc. the makers of ArcMap software. CRWA regularly uses ArcMap for mapping, managing data, and conducting spatial analyses.

ESRI and the ESRI Logo are licensed trademarks of Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.