Massachusetts Buffer Manual

Massachusetts Buffer Manual

Healthy waters offer swimming, fishing, relaxing scenery and fun for everyone. But as shorelines are built up, local waters are often damaged. Replacing native vegetation with lawns and pavement can allow stormwater runoff to carry pollutants into the water. These alterations also harm fish and wildlife habitats that are essential to aquatic ecosystems.

The Massachusetts Buffer Manual has clear guidance about the many benefits of maintaining and restoring vegetated buffers beside streams, lakes and ponds. It is intended to help people look at waterfronts in a new way and it explains how these buffers will sustain healthy waters. It provides many examples of shore landscaping that create a more appealing yard, as well as improve views and access to the water.

shore buffer

Appendix A of this manual describes how polluted runoff enters water bodies and how buffers will capture harmful pollution. It also shows why buffers are vital to wildlife.

Appendix B lists native plants and the conditions under which each plant will grow best.

This 2003 guidance was produced by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission with funding from the MassDEP Nonpoint Source Pollution grant program. A free download of this handy reference manual is available at .


How’s My Waterway

Want to know about brooks and ponds near your home?  Search EPA’s “How’s My Waterway” site that supplies free water quality reports. It’s an easy way to learn about both healthy and polluted waterways with a smart phone, tablet or computer.

EPA stream monitoring

“How’s my Waterway” helps people find information about the condition of waters across the U.S.  See if a stream or lake was checked for pollution, what was found, and what is being done. The source of this information is the EPA databank of water monitoring in Massachusetts and other states. This site identifies causes of harm in plain language, including stormwater and other pollution problems.

Use your laptop or tablet to visit . Or use a smart phone to find out about a lake, river or stream while standing at the water’s edge. You’ll quickly find waters within five miles of the search location. Each waterway is listed as unpolluted, polluted or unassessed, along with the year its condition was reported. The website or smart phone app also has simple, non-technical descriptions of each type of water pollution, what is being done to reduce pollutants, and how you can help. The related links page provides helpful information on beaches, drinking water, fish habitat projects and more.

Spring arrives tomorrow and warmer days should be here soon. A great time to check out the health of the waters we enjoy for swimming, fishing, canoeing and other recreation.

Creating More Beautiful and Healthier Neighborhoods with Rain Gardens

RunoffRemedies intro blog 120413While melting snow and spring rains will likely keep us out of our gardens for a few more weeks, now is the time to do some summertime dreaming and planning. Many people will be doing just that at the Boston Flower Show this week. Massachusetts Watershed Coalition will be sharing info about rain gardens at the EPA booth at the Flower Show on Saturday and Sunday, March 14th and 15th.

Every time it rains or snow melts away, the runoff from hard surfaces picks up and carries dirt, bacteria, fertilizers, pesticides, and debris, as well as oil and other fluids that drip from cars. Our roadways are really intermittent streams and almost all eventually empty into brooks and ponds without treatment. The increased nutrients and bacteria result in more weeds in our ponds, less fish habitat in our streams, and, increasingly, in toxic algae blooms.

Small actions that put rain in the ground quickly or disconnect clean rain from dirty streets provide big benefits. By implementing some simple and low-cost methods, homeowners and businesses can prevent pollution and reduce flooding. With a rain garden as part of your landscape, you’ll attract wildlife and beautify your neighborhood while helping prevent pollution and improve stream life.

rain garden church

Rain gardens are designed to retain storm water for a few hours, allowing it to seep into the ground. This groundwater replenishes waterways between rain events and sustains the health of stream life. Plants and soils in the rain garden help cleanse storm water and remove nutrients that can harm water quality. The plantings attract birds and beneficial insects like butterflies, bees, and dragonflies. Rain gardens make yards more attractive and form mini-ecosystems you will enjoy watching.

Planted with shrubs and perennials, rain garden construction is easy and upkeep is simple and inexpensive. If you do the design, digging, and collect seeds or plants from other people with gardens, the cost will be minimal. Or you can hire a professional landscaper. Depending on the types of plants and accessories you want, costs can range from $2-$5 per square foot for a homeowner installed garden to $8 – $12 or more per square foot for a professionally installed garden.

Rain Garden picture taken from the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition Rain Garden Guide

Rain Garden picture taken from the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition Rain Garden Guide

If you are at the Flower Show this weekend, stop by the EPA booth to pick up a copy of our Rain Garden Pocket Guide. You can also download the free Rain Garden Pocket Guide from the The Massachusetts Watershed Coalition at: