Canoeing for Clean Water - Charles River Watershed Association
  • Canoeing for Clean Water Volunteers
  • Canoeing for Clean Water Volunteers
  • Canoeing for Clean Water Volunteers
  • Canoeing for Clean Water Volunteers

2018 Volunteer Events

Due to the lack of water chestnuts on the river this year, we have decided to cancel our public water chestnut events for now. Although we are sad to cancel such a popular event, as we love to see all of our local volunteers dedicated to the cause, we are happy that our hand pulling efforts over the years are finally paying off! Click here for other CRWA volunteer opportunities.

Charles River Lakes District Invasive Plant Removal Project

The Charles River Lakes District, located in Newton and Waltham, is under threat from a non-native plant: the water chestnut. In response, CRWA works with community members and volunteers to eradicate the plant and help restore the ecosystems disrupted by water chestnut growth. Since 2008, CRWA has tackled the issue by partnering with Charles River Canoe and Kayak, Boating in Boston (Newton), The Department of Conservation and Recreation, as well as Citizens Alliance for Noxious weed Eradication (CANOE); a community group dedicated to removing the invasive weeds.

Help CRWA Remove Invasive Water Chestnuts

We are no longer accepting volunteer groups, as we are at capacity for the season. Please email our Invasive Plant Removal Volunteer Coordinator if you would like to be put on our wait list for group events. Thank you to everyone who has signed up or expressed interest! We are looking forward to another successful season!

Sign up to Volunteer  Schedule a Group Event 


Where to be:

Unless otherwise noted all events will be taking place at Boating in Boston at Newton Historic Boathouse, located at 2401 Commonwealth Avenue (Route 30) in Newton (Auburndale) MA. Parking is available at the Boating in Boston parking lot at the end of Norumbega Road. 

What to expect:

Volunteers go out on the Charles River in canoes and pull the invasive water chestnut by hand for an extremely rewarding experience. You will have a great time exploring the Charles, all while helping the river's natural ecosystem. For further questions about the volunteering experience, please view our Frequently Asked Questions.

Corporate, neighborhood, youth groups, and other teams of 10-30 volunteers can schedule a volunteer event for their group. 

For questions regarding CRWA's 2018 Water Chestnut Removal Season or the Canoeing for Clean Water Program contact:*

Margaret O'Brien
Invasive Plant Removal Program Volunteer
*Please give us two weeks to respond to any messages. If you do not get a reply after two weeks feel free to email again.

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What are Water Chestnuts?

Canoeing for Clean Water - Charles River Watershed Association

These invasive weeds grow prolifically throughout the Lakes District. The  waterchestnut is an aquatic plant, with small green leaves growing in  rosettes that float on the surface of the water. Each rosette can produce  up to 20 large, spiked seeds that can survive up to 12 years. The seeds  can then grow up to 20 new rosettes each.

As they reproduce, water chestnuts cause a myriad of issues for the ecosystems and waterways they inhabit. 

Water chestnuts grow in abundance, partly because of excess levels of phosphorus, which is present in the water mainly as a result of stormwater runoff, bank erosion, and wastewater discharges. This nutrient acts as a fertilizer for water chestnut growth. When the weeds die, they can further increase the levels of nutrients present in the water, and they also hinder the photosynthesis process and lead to an explosion of bacteria. Bacteria use oxygen to decompose dead water chestnut plants, leading to hypoxia and anoxia, killing off fish, mullosks, and other species existing in the ecosystem. In addition, water chestnut growth disrupts natural current flow, which hinders downstream sediment deposition and nutrient transport. Water chestnut growth is also a nuisance to those who enjoy the river for recreational purposes, as it makes activities such as boating, fishing and paddling virtually inaccessible. 

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How CRWA is Addressing the Issue

The water chestnut infestation is a symptom of high levels of phosphorus in the river. Growth can be eliminated through harvesting to reduce seed deposits and by preventing excess nutrients especially phosphorus from entering waterways. CRWA has developed several projects to help monitor and address water chestnut growth and nutrient overloading in the Charles River:

Water Chestnut Harvesting - In the Lakes District, the water chestnut issue is being addressed through awareness-building advocacy campaigns as well as through two different removal methods: mechanical harvesting and hand-pulling. Mechanical harvesters, partially funded through state grants, remove vast areas of plant coverage in deep water. The machines are unable to access weeds growing in shallow water, so hand pulling efforts are an essential aspect of CRWA's removal efforts. Through the Canoeing for Clean Water program, volunteers canoe through the Lakes District and remove water chestnuts by hand. CRWA hosts public and private volunteer group events throughout the summer months. 

Water Quality Monitoring - CRWA manages a team of over 80 volunteers, or "citizen scientists, who monitor multiple sites along the Charles River and collect water samples, measure depth and temperature, and record river conditions. This data is used to identify problems in the river and trends in water quality, and to track the progress of efforts to clean up the Charles. 

Blue Cities Initiative - CRWA designs and advocates for green infrastructure systems, like rain gardens and permeable pavement, to treat stormwater runoff naturally before it enters the Charles - all while enhancing neighborhoods and connecting existing open spaces.

Environmental Advocacy - Through reforming state water law, policy and practice, CRWA works to protect aquifers and maintain streamflow.

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