The RiverSmart Communities program combines social and river science, institutional and policy research, and community outreach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to research and address river floods in New England. It is our vision that river management can restore the environmental integrity of rivers while ensuring that New England communities thrive in a world where floods naturally occur. To make this vision possible, our work aims to help New England’s communities become river-smart.
River-smart: Managing rivers and riverside landscapes, as well as our own actions and expectations, so people and communities are more resilient to river floods. Specifically: reducing flood severity, flood damage, and flood costs by understanding and accommodating the natural dynamics of rivers and river floods.
A key goal is to offer ideas and tools that can be used by people and groups across New England – land and river managers, riverside property owners, policy makers, government agency staff, community leaders, grass-roots activists, and others – so they can creatively build and advocate for systems that work for their own states and communities.
In this website you can find summaries of the many projects included in the RiverSmart Communities program. You can also find educational and outreach materials that may be used to promote sustainable river management in your community.
Clesson Brook destroyed this box culvert on Buckland Road during Hurriicane Irene.
Culvert running under Green River Road, where Borden Brook enters the Green River on the Colrain-Leyden border.
Closeup view of a culvert running under Green River Road. Borden Brook joins the Green River at this point.
These UAV images from July 18-25, 2021 illustrate many of the issues with road-stream crossings, culvert size, debris, climate change driven intense precipitation and related flooding, and beaver activity in the Northeast. Also shown are river processes in action, a stable channel through a floodplain forest, glacial geologic features (an esker, and glacial till), and beaver-constructed wetlands. This tour from above shows evidence of where floodwaters went.
On September 28, 2019 the Fort River Watershed Association hosted a River Clean-up (in connection with our parent organization, the Connecticut River Conservancy's Source-to-Sea events) and River Festival. Riversmart Communities was there with a hands-on interactive river processes table where kids of all ages could explore a scale model of a river. Some kids brought a visitor up from the Fort River, who was really grooving to our live music by the band Ch'Chunk!
From it's temporary home at the UMass Amherst All Campus Pop-up Maker Space in October 2019, RiverSmart Communities' stream table makes a debut in this time-lapse of a stream table demo. We start with a simple scenario: a very small culvert and a straightened river channel. Quickly, the culvert fails and washes out. We then replace it with a bridge span, nearly wide enough for our channel (but not quite the aquatic passage friendly 1.2x bankfull width). As sediment supply increases, the channel migrates and braids downstream, and even avulses to form a new channel through a wetland area on the right. 1 minute in stream-table time represents approximately 2 years of channel evolution, so this 15-minute span condensed to 23 seconds represents approximately 30 years.