The WRWC was recently featured in URI Magazine!

In the spring 2024 issue of University of Rhode Island Magazine, Dave Lavallee (URI ’79, MPA ’87) writes about the history, importance, and value of our state’s rivers. He highlights the critical role that Rhode Island’s rivers play in the state’s past, present, and future, and explains why the future of our rivers and waterways all depend on the steps we take now to preserve, protect, and respect them.

In the article, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council Executive Director and URI Alum Alicia Lehrer (MS ’93) talks about her early work with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the conditions of the Woonasquatucket River when she started. She recalls the river being just outside her office at the time and her colleagues warning that the river was highly contaminated. However, despite the severe contamination and pollution endured by the Woonasquatucket until recently, there have been significant efforts to improve the river’s quality.

“There is really no comparison to the water quality now,” Alicia says. “Until 2015, we had a lot of problems, including sewage from 19 combined sewer overflow pipes along the river.” However, thanks to ongoing efforts by organizations like the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and its local and state partners, there are signs of improvement: “Recently, we collected data that showed swimmable water quality at Riverside Park, which is in the heart of Olneyville, a heavily industrialized area. The water is not consistently clean enough for swimming, but this was kind of like a miracle.”

While there still remains much more work to be done for restoring rivers like the Woonasquatucket and other vital waterways in our state that have faced decades of pollution, many of the restoration and cleanup efforts over the years have made a positive impact on our rivers and local ecosystems. One such impact has been increased investment in the local communities. For example, with a much cleaner Woonasquatucket River, almost $1 billion in investments have been made along its banks, such as mixed-used development, residences, and offices like the Foundry Campus.

Speaking on the connection between greater love and respect for our waterways and the other positive impacts it can have on the community, Alicia says, “Once rivers are loved and revered, investment follows.”

You can read the full story here.