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Watertown's Environmental History

Updated: Jan 27

Watertown’s Environmental History

by Jolly Tager

Updated January, 2024


1978: Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety is formed. (Renamed sometime later as Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment.)


1985: Citizen’s organization, Trees for Watertown, begins.


1995: The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee established.


1996: September, Watertown’s first Tree Warden, Tom Brady (not #12) hired.


1998: Town of Watertown rezones unused railroad property as open space to begin the development of a multi-use path.


2000: State purchases the right of way from School Street to Grove Street to develop a multi-use path.


2003: November 11th , Watertown Town Council votes to form the Energy Advisory Committee (WE3C).


2007: Watertown holds its first organic garden tour.


2007: Municipal Fleet incorporates its first hybrids.


2009: Stormwater Advisory Committee formed.


2010: Stretch Code was adopted, and MA DOER designates Watertown a Green Community. One of the criteria of the designation is to set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction.


2009-2010: Watertown’s municipal buildings--Watertown High School (2009), DPW (2010), Police Station (2010) -- begin to create renewable energy with the installation of solar arrays on their roof tops.


2010: MassDOT begins construction on the Watertown community path/greenway.


2011: Watertown Community Gardens established.


2012: Metropolitan Area Planning Council grant supported a project to assess healthy living and wellness in Watertown.


2013: Live Well Watertown (LWW) website was created with the support by a grant from Watertown Community Foundation.


2013: The Performance Savings Contract (ESCO) is enacted. This provides town-wide energy efficiency upgrades, which are paid for from the energy and maintenance savings.


2014: Watertown runs a Solarize Watertown Program.


2014-2019: Neighborhood Solar runs solar programs (arrays and solar hot water) for residents of Watertown.


February 27, 2015: Watertown hires an Energy Manager, Ed Lewis.


2015: Watertown adopts Design Guidelines Book (June 30, 2015).


2015: Watertown adopts Design Guidelines Pocket Guide (June 30, 2015).


2015: Watertown adopts Design Standards, with required energy assessments, EV charging stations, car-sharing parking places requirements, and LEED Silver certifiable requirements.


2016-2017: Energy Manager procures state Grants for Energy Efficiency Projects: LED street lights.


2016: June 7, Watertown Town Council passes the “Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance.”


2016: Watertown’s first LEED silver certifiable buildings required in the RMUD zone.


2016: In the November election, Watertown passes the Community Preservation Act.


2017: Watertown Faces Climate Change: MA350, a subcommittee of Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment, is formed.


2017: May 9th , Watertown Passes the Transportation Demand Ordinance.


2017: The Measurement and Verification (M&V) phase of the Performance Contract begins on July 1st .


2017: Watertown Transportation Management Association is established.


2017: Transportation Demand Management requirement established for new developments.


2017: The Economic Development and Planning Subcommittee of Town Council requests that the town lawyer draft an ordinance requiring new roof construction to be solar producing.


2017: Watertown’s Town Council votes to proceed with Community Choice Electrical Aggregation.


2017 Watertown negotiates a municipal electricity aggregation contract to begin in 2018.


2017: Watertown-Cambridge Greenway to be completed.


2017: Watertown utilized $300,505 in Green Community grants and utility incentives to convert the cobra-head streetlights to efficient and long-lasting LEDs.


2017: Buy Nothing Watertown Facebook group is formed. This resident-to-resident group increases Watertown’s sustainability by allowing items to be given away, borrowed, asked for, or loaned, thereby reducing Watertown’s waste stream, and avoiding excess production of material goods.


2018: Watertown hires a Senior Transportation Planner.


2018: Transit-Oriented Development, The Mount Auburn Street Project, The Proposed Watertown Square Project, and The Massdot Arsenal Corridor are all moving forward.


2018: The Arlington Street to Fresh Pond section of the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway to be completed


2018: (November 27th ) Solar Zone ordinance passed by Town Council. It is the first solar ordinance in all New England. The ordinance requires solar installations on all new commercial and residential buildings of a certain size and all parking garages.


2018: LEED Silver ordinance passed.


2019: Town Council passes resolution to support transition to 100% renewable energy.


2019: Watertown Electricity Choice launched.


2019: (January) Watertown’s School Building Committee decides to build two new zero net energy elementary schools and renovate a third school to these standards.


2019: Watertown hires a Senior Environmental and Conservation Planner.


2020: Municipal Vulnerability (MVP) Community certification achieved.


2020: (May) Watertown decides to own the solar arrays that will power its schools.


2020: (June 6) Watertown’s Town Council votes to accept bids to build two new zero net energy schools.


2020: Construction of the two new elementary zero net energy schools begins.


2020: (Late summer) Resilient Watertown website goes “on-line.”


2020: Bluebikes launched in July.


2020: (December) Municipal Electricity Aggregation procured from December 2021-December 2024. The contract is unique in the municipal world as it includes additional renewable energy above the amount required by Massachusetts law: each year an additional 4% of local renewable energy credits are added to the renewable portion (MA Class 1 RECs), substantially reducing our carbon footprint, and supporting the local adoption of solar. Our Municipal Electric Aggregation

is totally separate from Watertown Electricity Choice, Watertown’s residential community choice aggregation program.


2020/21: Watertown utilizes $336,486 in Green Community grants and utility incentives to fund energy conservation measures, interior and exterior LED lighting, electric vehicle acquisitions, and electric vehicle charging stations.


2021: Watertown awarded $207,505 Green Community Competitive Grant to replace all remaining energy inefficient streetlights with LEDs.


2021: (February 9) The Watertown Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is adopted by Town Council.


2021: (May 11) Watertown Town Council passes a Resolution Endorsing The Declaration Of A Climate Emergency with the goal of ending town-wide greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible and before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts target of 2050.


2021: Launch of Community Greening Program


2021: Town Council votes to fund the development of a Climate Action Plan for Watertown.


2021: (October) The Cunniff, the first registered zero net energy school in Massachusetts is opened.


2022: (January) Watertown City Council votes to establish an advisory recycling committee.


2022: (February) The Hosmer, the second registered truly zero net energy school in Massachusetts opens.


2022: Opening of the bike/pedestrian path from Watertown to Alewife, which connects to The Minuteman Rail Trail to Bedford and Concord.


2022: Watertown City Council votes to build the new high school net zero energy.


2022: (Spring) Watertown establishes curbside organic recycling to begin in August.


2022: (January) Climate and Energy Subcommittee of City Council established.


2022: (August 23) Watertown City Council votes to adopt a Climate and Energy Action Plan.


2022: Watertown secures a grant from MassSave for a two-year half-time Energy Advocate position.


2022: Watertown ratifies the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan. This plan establishes the goal of a 30% statewide reduction in disposal tonnage between 2022 and 2030.


2022: $800,000 grant received for Pleasant Street shuttle.


2022: $150,000 grant received for inorganic recycling, organic recycling, and waste reduction.


2022: (December 6) Watertown’s City Council’s Committee on Economic Development and Planning unanimously votes to send to the full City Council for consideration and adoption (as soon as it is available, after 12/23/22) the Commonwealth’s Specialized Opt-In Stretch Energy Code.


2022: (December 12) City Council votes to buy Walkers Pond, a 6.67 acre property. This purchase of land will allow Watertown to expand its public open space and control one of the wetlands within the city limits.


2022: (December) City Council sent a letter to Massachusetts officials supporting the removal of the Watertown DCR Dam from the Charles River near Watertown Square.


2023: (January 10) City Council unanimously votes to adopt the Commonwealth’s specialized opt-in energy stretch code, making Watertown, along with Brookline, the first two municipalities in the Commonwealth to adopt the code.

2023: Watertown receives a grant of $240,000 for storm water tree trenches.


2023: (February) The Watertown Connector (Pleasant Street shuttle), available to residents and running to and from Harvard Square, becomes electric, helping decrease GHG emissions, traffic congestion, pollution, and commuting costs for users.


2023: April. Watertown was awarded a $38,500 grant with a 50/50 match by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grant Program to support the City’s Tree and Potential Planting Location Inventory project.


2023: September, Watertown was awarded a 2023 USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry-Inflation Reduction Act Grant for $100,000. The tree planting in the City of Watertown grant is to help Watertown assist with new tree planting and focus planting efforts within the communities of Watertown, including Tree Planting and Maintenance, Restoration and Resilience, and Extreme Heat.


2023: November 16, Groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Watertown’s 4.0 LEED Platinum, Net Zero Energy High School --- the first in the country to be built this way.


2023: December 10: City Council approves the use of Watertown’s ARPA funds (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021): $1 million for the PV array on the new high school, $379,454 for new stormwater tree trenches, and $67,500 for a study of city-supported local transit.




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