About Us / About the Watershed Association

The Harpeth River Watershed Association (HRWA) in middle Tennessee is dedicated to preserving and restoring the ecological health of the Harpeth River and its Watershed. Our work leverages the scientific and technical training and experience of our staff and advisors with the efforts of a diverse corps of volunteers who are crucial to every aspect of our programs. Our board members, volunteer leadership, and hundreds of supporters are county commissioners, local city staff and officials, government agency staff, concerned citizens, farmers, business leaders, scientists, engineers, and community leaders who share our commitment to having an ecologically healthy river.

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Our approach involves seeking to understand all perspectives and working collaboratively with a wide range of interests to yield long lasting and practical results. Though we are not confrontational in style, we actively confront problems with solutions based on scientific studies such as our groundbreaking sediment study and our stream assessment survey. 

With a community effort, we can restore and maintain a healthy and biologically important river in the heart of one of the fastest growing regions of the U.S. The HRWA relies on the support of its members and generous individuals and corporations to provide critical funding that supports scientific and technical staff and gives flexibility to program work.

HRWA’s Long-Term Commitment to Watershed Health

The scientific and technical staff of the Harpeth River Watershed Association, advised by a broad range of experts and assisted by trained volunteers, are working to assess water quality and stream habitat. This lays the groundwork for long-term improvements in river health. Founded in 1999, the HRWA is the only organization which focuses its efforts on the entire Harpeth River, from its birth in Rutherford County to its union with the Cumberland River along the border of Dickson and Cheatham Counties. 

The HRWA is committed to re-building and maintaining the ecological balance of our watershed diversity amidst the various human uses of the landscape. We are doing this by forging partnerships in order to provide information, training, and activities that enable homeowners, landowners, families, farmers, businesses, researchers, and government agencies to directly enhance areas of the watershed.

Pioneering sediment study

How muddy is the Harpeth River? Construction sites with poor erosion control are a major source of sediment, or “mud,” as are eroding streambanks. Once sediment accumulates in a stream it smothers wildlife and habitats, and negatively affects water flow patterns. In a two-year study designed by the Cumberland River Compact, HRWA’s trained volunteers measured sediment levels throughout the watershed, clearly establishing that sediment is the Harpeth’s top water quality problem. Sites along the main Harpeth and Little Harpeth downstream from Franklin, Brentwood, and Bellevue were 3 to more than 15 times muddier than near-pristine sites located in the headwaters of the South Harpeth. A follow-up study of streambank erosion is now in progress.

Assessing streambank conditions

The plants and trees along streambanks provide vital functions for the health of the river by filtering runoff water from adjacent land and providing cooling shade. In 2001, HRWA-trained volunteers assessed and photographed 217 sites on nearly all of the streams classified as “impaired” by the state. More than half the sites, whether in developed or agricultural areas, had little to no streambank vegetation.

River Restoration Program—You can help

HRWA has initiated a number of pilot projects in neighborhoods, parks, farms, and on private property around the Harpeth to restore endangered streambanks. With our volunteer corps, we can provide valuable assistance in labor, equipment, and expertise. Contact us to learn how you or your company, classroom, scout troop, or church group can participate!

Facilitating better practices for growth

The HRWA is working with a range of private and government partners on land use planning and encouraging the use of better development and road design, more effective erosion control, infiltration stormwater designs, improved stream buffers, greater water and energy efficiency, and other long-term solutions.

Funding

The HRWA relies on the support of its members and generous individuals and corporations to provide critical funding that supports scientific and technical staff and gives flexibility to program work. 

Corporate and Financial Information such as by-laws and recent tax filings (990s) can be found on the Giving Matters web site that is a project of the Community Foundation of Middle TN.   Simply type in "Harpeth River Watershed Association" into the search area on the top right of the home page.