Watertown's Environmental History

Watertown’s Environmental History

by Jolly Tager

October 31, 2022

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.

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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-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.

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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.


2020/21: 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: 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.

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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 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.



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