Charles River Issues - Charles River Watershed Assocation

The Charles River has experienced tremendous gains since CRWA was incorporated in 1965, but these success stories are still unfolding. Even as water quality improves, we are discovering new complexities and are learning ever more about how watersheds work. Visit the links below for more information about the most relevant issues currently impacting the Charles River.

Water Quality

Water quality in the Charles River has significantly improved since 1995; however, the ultimate goal of a fishable, swimmable Charles River has not been achieved, and there is still much work to do. CRWA's Field Science program plays a key role in monitoring and improving water quality to support the achievement of the current goal of a fishable and swimmable river.


As the suburban and rural upper Charles River watershed develops at one of the fastest rates in the state, so does the demand for water resources. Our efforts to monitor flow in the Charles River and its tributaries is the first step in identifying the problems and causes of low flows in the watershed.

Algae in the Charles

Blue-green algae has been present in the Charles River for years, but has recently become an important issue due to the type and quantity of algae present and the potential health threats it possesses. Since 2006, CRWA has mounted collaborative efforts to monitor the problem and inform the public. Learn more


In the Charles River Basin, sediment and the chemicals carried with it have the potential to cause serious and persistent environmental and public health problems.

Stormwater and run-off (non-point source pollution)

Runoff from rain and snow is one of the most significant source of pollution to the Charles River, as it negatively impacts fisheries, habitat, aquatic flora, recreational uses and aesthetic beauty. Much of CRWA's work in this area is with municipalities focusing on stormwater management, financing, and creation of stormwater by-laws.


Foam is often observed in and along the Charles River. Most foam observed in the river is the result of degrading organic matter which is a natural part of the riverine ecosystem and does not necessarily indicate a problem. On occasion, however, foam may be the result of wash water entering the river through runoff or illicit sewage discharges to the river. Natural foam is often found downstream of rapids or below waterfalls and dams. Unnatural foam is typically observed near to the pollution source such as an outfall pipe. Learn more here. 

Learn More About the Charles River

Related Posts