Martha's Vineyard watershed map
The Island of Martha's Vineyard, located off the southwest shore of Cape Cod, is nestled between the Elizabeth Islands to the west and the Island of Nantucket to the east. Martha's Vineyard represents one of the two major island watersheds in Massachusetts.

The Martha's Vineyard Watershed drains approximately 89 square miles, encompasses all six towns on the Island of Martha's Vineyard, and includes 13 named streams, 42 lakes, approximately 125 miles of coastline, and an astounding 8,777 acres of estuaries.

It has become a famous vacation spot, attracting thousands of tourists throughout the year. Martha's Vineyard's year-round population of approximately 14,000 people grows to approximately 100,000 during the summer. The Island also has approximately 25,000 visitors per day during the summer months. In 1999, Dukes County (Martha's Vineyard) was the third fastest growing county in Massachusetts (behind Barnstable and the Island of Nantucket).

Martha's Vineyard provides a natural sanctuary for 90 rare and endangered species and ecosystems, including maritime sandplain grasslands, which have limited worldwide distribution and are considered a globally imperiled natural community. Martha's Vineyard is considered a sole-source aquifer because all the drinking water for the island is supplied by a groundwater aquifer, which is recharged solely by precipitation.

Watershed Priorities

  • Maintain or improve the quality of fresh and marine waters by reducing nutrients and contaminants entering the watershed from point and nonpoint source pollution
  • Collect baseline data on fresh and coastal ponds
  • Continue to support sustainable development practices
  • Support comprehensive wastewater management
  • Increase opportunities for environmental education

Watershed Success


Collecting water quality samples
Two sub-watersheds have had nutrient loading assessments completed and management strategies developed to protect water quality. This year data will be gathered and assessed for Menemsha Pond and Lagoon Pond. These assessments will include recommended actions to maintain or improve the water quality of the ponds. An environmental education planning group was formed to promote environmental literacy and is working with volunteers to conduct water quality sampling throughout the island.

Watershed Publications

Nutrient Loading in Martha's Vineyard Coastal Ponds

Watershed Links

Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group
Vineyard Conservation Society

This information is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Water Policy