The Nashawannuck Pond Watershed Restoration Project

Easthampton, Massachusetts

The Nashawannuck Pond is a primary landmark of downtown Easthampton. It was created in 1846 by Samuel Williston to provide water power to an expanding base of manufacturing facilities. In 1985 the community purchased this body of water from the J.P. Stevens Company. In an effort to enlist public and private support for the protection and restoration of this valuable resource, the Board of Selectmen instituted the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee. A comprehensive study of the pond was performed in the late 1980's with a management plan published and presented to the community. This web page will serve to examine the findings of that committee, and the progress toward accomplishing their charge, which is "to promote the cleanup and preservation of Nashawannuck Pond, and to recommend policies and direction to the town of Easthampton concerning these issues".



Old Postcard Depicting The Nashawannuck Pond At Night
(Courtesy of John Watling)

In this postcard picture, you can see the trolley car rails in the foreground. In the background, is our beautiful Mount Tom with the Summit House clearly visible, shining white on the mountain top. There were two summit houses atop the mountain, the first of which opened in 1897 and was reached by trolley car. It was destroyed by fire in 1900. A second Summit House was built, and opened in 1901. Overlooking Easthampton, it stood for 28 years until it was also destroyed by fire. Travelers going down Route 91 or the Massachusetts Turnpike today, can now view an array of broadcast antennas atop the summit.

Click on map to return
to the top.




Nashawannuck Pond is a 32-acre Y-shaped pond located in the center of Easthampton. The pond's watershed, that is, the land area that drains into the pond, is approximately 10 square miles. This watershed extends from Mount Tom in the Holyoke Range to White Loaf Mountain and the Pequot Ponds, and includes the Massachusetts communities of Easthampton, Holyoke, and Southampton.

Three tributaries flow into Nashawannuck Pond: Broad Brook, Wilton Brook, and White Brook. The pond was created in 1846 when these feeder streams were dammed to create hydropower for thevarious mills in Easthampton. Today, the pond is primarily a recreational resource, used for fishing,boating, and bird-watching. Once a popular swimming area, sediment loading and excess aquatic vegetation growth has made swimming impossible and boating difficult during the summer. In 1985, the town purchased the pond from the JP Stevens Company to protect and restore it.

The primary threat to the health of Nashawannuck Pond is nonpoint source pollution, such as excess fertilizers and sediments, flowing from the surrounding watershed. The City of Easthampton and organizations such as the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee, and Nashawannuck Pond Restoration Project Advisory Committee have been working together to restore the health andrecreational potential of Nashawannuck Pond.

Surface Watershed Area: Water Body Area

The ratio of the watershed size to the size of the water resource is important in determining the management and restoration options. The higher the ratio of watershed size to pond size, the more important watershed activities are to the health of the pond. For example, a 10 to 1 ratio would indicate that in-lake-only management techniques would have a limited effect on water quality. Nashawannuck Pond's watershed is approximately 10 square miles and the pond is roughly 31 acres. Nashawannuck Pond's watershed-to-pond area is 211 to 1. This means that the residents in the watershed area, and the decisions they make every day, affect the health of this pond. (Click here for a larger map of the watershed area).

Click on map to return
to the top.

Threats to the Pond

The major threat to the water quality and health of Nashawannuck Pond is something called "nonpoint source pollution" (NPS). This means that, as a result of rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground, the runoff picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants. This runoff is deposited into wetlands, streams, underground sources of water, and ultimately, the pond. (Click here for illustration) Some of these pollutants include:

  • excess fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides from residential areas.
  • oil, grease, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals deposited by automobiles on roadways, parking lots, and driveways.
  • sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forested lands, and eroding streambanks.
  • salt and sand from roads and parking lots.
  • bacteria from livestock, pet waste, and faulty septic systems.


    Nutrients are essential for the growth of organisms such as plants, but when more nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorous fertilizers than plants can absorb are applied, the excess is carried away by rain and stormwater. Eventually, this excess ends up being deposited in the pond. Once in the pond, these fertilizers stimulate the growth of aquatic vegetation. Too many plants or weeds harm the pond and the species that inhabit it in several ways:

  • More weeds consume more oxygen from the water column, so less water is available for fish and other pond species.

  • When the plants eventually die off, decomposition of the vegetation reduces oxygen levels even more, stimulating anaerobic activity and causing odors and algae growth in the pond.

    Click here for an example of the most typical weeds growing in Nashawannuck Pond.
    Excess nutrient loading in the pond has severely limited its recreational potential for fishing, boating, and swimming, and is threatening water quality and habitat values.
  • Herbicides and Pesticides

    Unless they are applied very carefully, herbicides and pesticides are carried from lawns and gardens and deposited in the pond. As the herbicides and pesticides flow overland and eventually reach the pond, they may destroy beneficial plants and insects. The result is decreased species diversity and an imbalance in the species composition within the pond and the surrounding watershed.

    Stormwater Runoff

    As rain falls on the earth, some of it is absorbed by plants or permeates the soil. Rain that is not absorbed when it reaches the earth is called stormwater runoff. As it flows across the land from gardens, sidewalks, lawns, driveways, etc., it carries soil and pollutants - fertilizers, herbicides, chemicals such as oil and gasoline, and animal waste.

    Less vegetation and more impervious surface (such as driveways and roads) means less rainwater is soaking into the ground. Instead, it flows overland with greater speed, eroding the soil and picking up more sediment and other pollutants - all of which end up in the Nashawannuck Pond.

    Sediment, or soil particles that are carried by stormwater runoff and deposited in water bodies, is a product of erosion. Sediment may carry additional pollutants, like fertilizers and other chemical compounds, to the water resource. Nashawannuck Pond receives a tremendous amount of sediment from the surrounding watershed.

    Sediment loading has decreased the size and depth of the pond by 20 acres over the last 150 years!

    Click on map to return
    to the top.

    Best Management Practices

    Use Fertilizers Sparingly

    Fertilizers contain nitrates and phosphates that stimulate the growth of aquatic vegetation, and also cause algae blooms that can lead to fish kills. If possible, do not fertilize your lawn with such products.


    Reduce the Use of Pesticides, Herbicides, and Insectisides

    Maintain Slope Stability

    Use Permeable Surfaces

    Use Low-Maintenance Techniques

    Control Stormwater Runoff On-Site

    Your house roof, like pavement, sheds water. If
    downspouts from roof gutters empty onto grassy
    areas, the water will have a chance to soak into
    the ground. Aim downspouts away from
    foundations and paved surfaces. For roofs without gutters,
    plant grass, spread mulch, or use gravel under the drip line to prevent soil erosion and increase the ground's capacity to absorb water. Use cisterns or rain barrels to catch the rainwater and use it for watering lawns and gardens in dry weather.

    Click on map to return
    to the top.