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

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 aim to translate scientific information about the rivers’ health into 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).

Workshops: To start the process, OARS convened a diverse group of stakeholders for a workshop on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2018, to develop a shared understanding and vision for the watershed. Participants discussed what matters to our communities, what is measurable, and what is important to a healthy ecosystem. The participants selected a number of indicators of river health: water quality, water quantity, habitat/wildlife, recreation, social/economy, and cultural/scenic. Read the Workshop Newsletter. The second workshop will be on October 30, 2018, to review the indicator data collected over the summer and how we'll calculate the grades. We welcome continued input from all stakeholders—that’s you!

Photos courtesy of Dave Griffin.

Five-Step Process: The Report Card is developed in 5 Steps, and by mid-September we are at Step 4.

  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.