North Coastal watershed map
The North Coastal Watershed is a study in contrasts. The northern reaches of the North Coastal Watershed include the southern tier of the Hampton and the Seabrook salt marsh complexes, while further south, the watershed is dominated by the rocky shores of Cape Ann, which provide the most distinctive rocky coastline in all of Massachusetts. The southern reaches of the watershed consist of an irregular coastline of rocky peninsulas, interspersed with embayments, pockets of salt marsh and vibrant estuaries.

The North Coastal Watershed has a total drainage area of approximately 168 square miles. It encompasses all or part of five river sub-basins, including the Danvers, Essex, Saugus, Pines, and Annisquam Rivers. There are approximately 2,428 acres of lakes and ponds in the watershed. The North Coastal encompasses all or part of 26 Massachusetts municipalities, and supports a population of approximately 500,000 people. The major resources in the region include a major lobster fishery, as well as shellfishing.

Watershed Priorities

  • Work to reduce contaminated stormwater emanating from street drainage systems along highways and local roads
  • Implement sustainable growth management techniques and innovative land use planning, specifically in the Town of Essex, by addressing wastewater management
  • Conserve and protect open space
  • Prevent the introduction of invasive plant species and reduce the loss of productive shellfish habitat
  • Determine the impacts of growth on drinking water supplies and work to maintain adequate base flows in rivers and streams

Coastal lighthouse Watershed Success

An Open Space Plan for the North Coastal Watershed was completed by the Harvard School of Design. The plan includes a network of interconnected existing preservation areas, new preservation areas, riparian corridor setbacks, and a harbor walk as a way to address the need for protection of both water and habitat resources.

Watershed Publications

Watershed Links

Saugus River Watershed Council
North Shore Region (MA CZM page)
Salem Sound Coastwatch
Friends of Lake Quannapowitt
Massachusetts Audubon Society
National Marine Fisheries Service - Northeast Regional Office
City of Gloucester Home Page

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