The Saco Watershed Collaborative: Safeguarding the Future of the Saco River

The Saco Watershed Collaborative is a dedicated group of professionals, community members, and scientists working to protect the irreplaceable water resources and benefits that come from the Saco watershed.

Source water protection is a priority of the collaborative. The Saco River provides drinking water for approximately 250,000 residents across southern Maine. Forests, shoreland buffers, wetlands, aquifers, small streams, lakes and ponds, and rivers are all part of a system that collects, filters, and stores water.

The collaborative facilitates and plans meetings and events to engage interested stakeholders in the development of the Saco Watershed Collaborative. In 2017, the collaborative led outreach field trips and meetings to demonstrate the different types of stewardship occurring in the watershed. Thirty-one organizations participated to help build collective knowledge about how the collaborative could work to accomplish shared goals.

Collaboration among organizations working in the watershed will result in benefits to thousands of people who depend upon the Saco River for drinking water, livelihoods, and recreation.


  • Protect water quality, public health and the ecosystems of the Saco Watershed through coordinated land and water conservation, education, research, planning, and management.
  • Develop and sustain mutually beneficial partnerships to accomplish shared goals for clean water.
A group tour hosted by Highland Farms in Maine. Members of the Collaborative learned about soil erosion control and nutrient cycling.

Guiding Principles

The Saco Watershed Collaborative aims to:

  • Serve as a model for local, state and federal collaboration to accomplish shared goals for watershed protection and restoration.
  • Use transparent and inclusive processes for citizen engagement and public participation to protect and sustain high quality drinking water.
  • Recognize and respect the organizations, their interactions and uses of the Saco Watershed to sustain shared water resources.
  • Recognize and respect the interactions of economic development, private property rights and responsibilities to sustain shared water resources.
  • Identify and efficiently use funding sources for conservation projects, education and outreach opportunities, research, and monitoring of the Saco Watershed.
  • Develop indicators of success to evaluate the work of the Collaborative.
  • Align the work of the Collaborative with existing stakeholder-generated plans to accomplish shared goals economically and efficiently.
  • Adapt scientific information, data and maps to audience needs and present them in formats that produce results.
  • Provide support and services to members, municipalities, and water suppliers to facilitate the protection and sustainability of high quality drinking water sources in the watershed.
  • Foster the adoption, testing and evaluation of science-based best management practices to protect, sustain and restore high quality drinking water sources in the watershed.

Project Growth

Partners coming together to learn from each other the work that is being done in the watershed.

The Saco Watershed Collaborative hosted a workshop Testing the Waters for Collaborative Partnerships to Sustain the Saco on December 2, 2016.  The purpose of this workshop was to explore the idea of forming a Saco Watershed Collaborative by bringing together members of the diverse groups who care about the Saco and its future. The goal of forming a Saco Watershed Collaborative was to increase the collective impact of a Stewardship Network by working strategically on shared goals. Participants in the workshop had an opportunity to learn from each other and provide input into the development and design of a Saco Watershed Collaborative. The University of New England used the results of this workshop to collaborate with interested groups throughout the watershed to carry the ideas of this meeting forward into the 2017 inaugural year of the Saco Watershed Collaborative.


Recommended References

Project Partners

Partners from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Appalachian Mountain Club
  • Attaining Sustainable Solutions 
  • Belstar Orchards
  • Biddeford Conservation Commission
  • Brookfield Renewable Energy
  • City of Biddeford
  • City of Saco
  • Eastern Trail Alliance
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • FB Environmental
  • Fiddlehead Environmental
  • Friends of Sebago Lake
  • Harvard Forest
  • Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells Water District
  • Laura Calandrella, LLC
  • Lovewell Pond Association
  • Maine Department of Environmental Protection
  • Maine Center for Disease Control, Drinking Water Program
  • Maine Farmland Trust
  • Maine Geological Survey
  • Maine Natural Areas Program
  • Maine Rural Water Association
  • Maine Water Company
  • New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
  • North Conway Water Precinct
  • Northern Geomantics
  • Poland Spring
  • Residents of the Saco Watershed
  • Rumery’s Boat Yard
  • Saco Valley Land Trust
  • Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative
  • The Ecology School
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Town of Arundel
  • Town of Limerick
  • Trout Unlimited, Sebago Chapter
  • University of Michigan
  • University of New England
  • United States Geological Survey
  • US Forest Service
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • US Senator Angus King's Office
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • White Mountains National Forest
  • York County Invasive Aquatic Species Project
  • York County Soil and Water Conservation District

Project Management

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