In Collaboration With

Greater Mill River Coalition

Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge

Massachusetts Watershed Initiative (EOEA)

Smith College

MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

The Nature Conservancy

Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

Natural Resources Conservataion Service (USDA)

Connecticut River Watershed Council

Valley Land Fund

Franklin Land Trust

Deerfield Land Trust


Please note:

The Mill River Watershed Project was an active project of UMass Extension beginning in 1997 and ending the following decade. This website was created during that period. While some of the content of this site may be outdated, we have elected to keep it online becase much of the information it contains may remain of valued to interested parties. We acknowledge that users may find non-functional web links and/or other other problematic elements and apologize for them.

Working for the communities of Conway, Deerfield, Hatfield, Northampton, Whately & Williamsburg, Massachusetts

The goals of the Mill River Watershed Project are to make science, research, and planning resources available to watershed officials and residents and to develop a coordinated, community-based approach to resource protection across town boundaries.

To accomplish these goals, researchers from Smith College, the University of Massachusetts and UMass Extension have been conducting a range of environmental assessments to document the health of the Mill River and its tributaries. Since 1997 these have included:

  • An assessment of the chemistry of surface waters and groundwater sources (on-going),
  • A study of the impact of low-flow conditions on aquatic habitats (on-going)
  • Evaluations of water quality and quantity effects by studying aquatic macroinvertebrates (on-going)
  • A stream buffer survey along the Mill River's riparian corridor (completed)
  • A survey of fish diversity (completed)
  • An investigation of the freshwater mussel diversity and abundance (completed)

In addition, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments has completed a wetlands functional deficit analysis, which identifies areas that were historically wetlands, and, with assistance from the University of Massachusetts, has conducted a preliminary assessment of potential threats to water resources from land use activities.

UMass Extension has been and continues to work with local residents, town officials, state and federal agencies and private non-profits to raise public awareness about natural resource issues, provide technical assistance to local boards and farmers, protect key habitats and wildlife corridors, and develop a cohesive plan to mitigate water quality and quantity problems.

Raising Awareness: A grant from Massachusetts Riverways allowed UMass Extension to design and , produce signs identifying all the named tributaries in the watershed. The local public works departments installed the signs.


The Issue

Like cities and towns everywhere, the communities in the Mill River Watershed are faced with the challenge of maintaining their fiscal health while also protecting the environment, their agricultural base and their rural characters. To have both a strong economy and a healthy environment, CLEAN WATER is abasic necessity. Protecting this resource for the long run requires.

  • building cooperation among town that share a watershed.
  • identifying important water resources and threats to quality and quantity of water.
  • protecting groundwater and surface water from contamination.
  • protecting groundwater recharge areas to ensure adequate water quantity.

This watershed approach to resource protection provides additional benefits in agricultural sustainability, forest health, wildlife habitat, and recreation.

Priority Status

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, which is working with local governments and landowners to protect wildlife habitat throughout the four-state Connecticut River watershed, has identified the Mill River watershed as a high priority because of the outstanding wildlife habitat. At present the Mill River and its tributaries support the greatest diversity of freshwater mussels in Massachusetts, including the state's only viable population of Federally Endangered dwarf wedgemussels, and the western portion of the watershed is part of one of the largest blocks of unfragmented forest in Massachusetts. This priority status for the Mill River watershed means that towns in the watershed will have an opportunity to draw on an extensive network of resources and expertise to address their water quality and natural resource concerns.

The Opportunity

Over the next several years, towns in the Mill River watershed will have an unusual opportunity to improve the area's natural resources and quality of life. These projects can range from protecting open space to training local teachers about natural resource issues to upgrading faulty bridges like this one (left), which is impeding floodwaters and fish passage and causing an increase in erosion. Businesses can get involved by providing volunteers to help pull invasive plants, monitor water levels or develop nature trails. Towns can take advantage of training workshops held for board of health, planning and conservation commission members. Farmers can get assistance from the University on technical issues and state and federal farm viability programs.

Working Together

Project partners work together to:

  • Assess water quality and habitat conditions in the Mill river and its tributaries. A variety of water quality monitoring and land use assessments will be used.
  • Identify opportunities to protect and enhance farmland, forest health, wildlife habitat and recreational values,
  • Provide local officials with sound scientific information to support their decisions about how to protect watershed resources.
  • Offer young people an opportunity to learn about the environment and to develop a sense of responsibility for their communities.
  • Develop a coordinated approach to resource protection across town boundaries.

Project Partners

The Mill River Watershed Project is a broad partnership of state and federal agencies, regional planning agencies, and educational institutions.

Town boards of selectmen, boards of health, planning boards, water districts, departments of public works, and conservation commissions, as well as local businesses and citizens are all be invited to play a central role.

Back to Top

UMass Extension logo