A Report Card for the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers

Starting in January 2018, OARS is working with stakeholders and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) to give the rivers a grade! The Rivers Report Card will to aim to translate scientific information about the rivers’ health and present it in a way that is easy to understand. It will provide a snapshot of current conditions and the historical trends and context of those conditions. See examples of UMCES's EcoHealth Report Cards (https://ecoreportcard.org).

Workshop: To start the process, we’re inviting a diverse group of stakeholders to develop a shared understanding and vision for the watershed. This is where you come in. We would like your expertise and input on what matters to communities, what is measurable, and what is important to a healthy ecosystem. We hope to use indicators from a variety of categories, for example: surface water quality, sustainable water use, wetland protection (or loss), groundwater resources, open space/habitat protection, economic sustainability, quality of life, environmental justice, resilience to climate change. The workshop is scheduled for late February. If you are interested in participating, please contact us!

Five-Step Process: The Report Card is developed in 5 Steps.

  1. What is the big picture? What aspects of the rivers do people value and what are the key threats?
  2. What do we measure? When selecting indicators, are there available data, or data gaps? Are the indicators relevant? Can they be measured throughout the ecosystem?
  3. What is healthy? Define the thresholds of ecosystem health. For example, what water temperature limits fish survival?
  4. How does it add up? Calculate indicator scores (0-100%); average the indicator scores to provide a grade for the ecosystem health for each river.
  5. What is the story? Communicate results: Who is the target audience? How do we engage local residents and get the attention of decision-makers? How can they have an impact or change behavior? Show historical trends. Clear and simple communication as part of community-based social marketing is key.

Thank you to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and The Sudbury Foundation for sponsoring this project, and to the Cedar Tree Foundation and the National Park Service for additional support.