Harpeth Conservancy
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215 Jamestown Park, Suite 101
Brentwood, TN 37027
Organization Details



Harpeth Conservancy is a science-based conservation organization whose mission is to restore and protect clean water and healthy ecosystems for rivers in Tennessee. Our rivers, including the Harpeth, are part of the unique river systems of the Southeast, which contain some of the greatest variety of aquatic life in the world. Harpeth Conservancy protects these vital resources by employing scientific expertise and collaborative relationships to develop, promote and support broad community stewardship and action.


Founded in 1999 as the Harpeth River Watershed Association, Harpeth Conservancy has worked for 20 years to monitor, restore, and protect the State Scenic Harpeth River and its tributaries. The 125-mile long Harpeth is one of the few entirely free flowing rivers in Tennessee, meandering through six counties in the heart of one of the fastest growing regions of the country. Recent development pressure, combined with the river's ecological, cultural, and recreational significance, make it an ideal testing ground for developing actions needed to protect clean water throughout the state.

Over the past 15 years, the organization has broadened both the scope and geographic reach of its work as it applied lessons learned on the Harpeth to rivers and streams across the state. In response to this evolution, the Board of Directors voted in 2017 to change the name to Harpeth Conservancy. With the help of members and collaborators, we have achieved major strides toward restoring the ecological integrity of the Harpeth River. By developing scientifically based water withdrawal permits, removing the low head dam, and serving on the stormwater appeals board for Williamson County, we have played a critical role in restoring more natural flow to the Harpeth. We have been a key organizer of water quality studies to support management decisions, including volunteer dissolved oxygen and sediment monitoring, establishing continuous water quality gauges, and our current study of the amount and types of algae found in the Harpeth. We consistently work to reduce pollution sources entering our waters by raising awareness of contamination problems, installing over 50 restoration projects to limit agricultural and urban runoff, and our current involvement in developing a plan to reduce nutrient pollution from sewage treatment plants. We also engage in landuse planning to preserve key open spaces, such as our efforts to reroute transmission lines and highway development from important areas in the Harpeth Watershed. In all our work, we strive to educate the community on issues facing water resources in TN and involve citizens in the stewardship of our rivers and streams. By introducing youth to aquatic diversity, partnering with volunteers to remove over 135 tons of debris, and promoting recreational use through the Harpeth River Blueway and our responsible river recreation campaign, we hope to encourage and empower local leaders to act on behalf of our fresh


As Harpeth Conservancy expands our efforts statewide, we have also grown internally, adopting a new executive structure including a president and CEO, vice president and policy program director, science director, and development director. In addition, Harpeth Conservancy has continued increasing joint programing with local and national conservation organizations. While we remain focused on protecting the Harpeth River, we plan to use the considerable success achieved locally as an example for how community-based river conservation can occur throughout Tennessee. Recent Accomplishments Working in partnership with federal, state, and local groups, Harpeth Conservancy helped initiate the development of a pollution reduction plan designed to remove the Harpeth River from Tennessee's list of impaired waterways.

Building on 15 years of scientific studies, we continue collecting data on water quality, nutrients, algae, and oxygen dynamics to aid the pollution reduction plan. These efforts expand coverage of available data and ensure the underlying water quality model for this plan is scientifically sound, which is critical because this model will become the basis for future management decisions. Harpeth Conservancy has recently focused on strengthening partnerships between environmental organizations in the region. This includes establishing the Nashville Waterways Consortium and Rivive! campaign, a joint effort with five local and national conservation organizations to increase awareness of issues facing freshwater resources around Nashville, as well as a coalition of TN environmental organizations focusing on state and national policy priorities. Harpeth Conservancy's work has always depended on volunteer and community support. In 2019, we launched a new citizen-science effort focused on community-based mapping of conditions throughout our local streams. This social-media based platform, known as Water Reporter, will increase our ability to identify problem areas and target future restoration priorities.

One way Harpeth Conservancy achieves its mission of restoring river ecosystems is through projects designed to reduce erosion of stream banks and limit pollution entering our waters. This past year, we installed nearly 2,000 feet of exclusion fencing, a stream crossing, and alternate watering sources along the upper Harpeth, as well as planted nearly 1,000 trees along stream banks throughout the watershed Upcoming GoalsThe effort to set limits on the amount of nutrient pollution entering the Harpeth is the most advanced in Tennessee and could serve as a model for rivers throughout the Southeastern US. A major priority over the coming year is to remain active in the pollution reduction plan to ensure scientific rigor and increase stakeholder awareness and involvement in the process. The largest data gap in current monitoring efforts are the types and amount of algae found in the Harpeth River. Excessive algae growth contributes to poor water quality and some algae blooms can even be toxic. We plan to continue sampling algae communities in the Harpeth to understand potential health risks and lay the foundation for our long-term goal of creating an algae-based pollution index for waters in TN. Building on the recent success of outreach efforts with the Nashville Waterways Consortium, a major goal is to develop joint programming, such as volunteer stream cleanups or restoration activities, to pool resources and tackle larger projects. A key goal of both our science and outreach programs is to expand our most recent citizen-science effort through targeted surveys for algae blooms, erosion problems, and pollution issues.


Harpeth Conservancy has made significant strides toward restoring the Harpeth River Watershed, and we plan to use the lessons learned locally to advance community-based river conservation throughout TN. To achieve this goal while maintaining core programming in the Harpeth, we seek to increase our operating budget from $500,000 to $1,000,000 annually. These additional resources will expand both programming scope and organizational capacity. Coordinating watershed-scale monitoring and restoration requires collaboration between multiple groups and consistent attention. Harpeth Conservancy seeks funding to implement key aspects of our comprehensive watershed plan, including water quality data collection, coordination of a technical advisory committee to oversee implementation, and the installation of stream restoration projects. All of Harpeth Conservancy's work, from installing restoration projects to advancing policies to protect water quality, depends on community involvement and support. A key need of both our policy and outreach programs is expanded capacity to build coalitions of environmental groups and communities in TN. To facilitate this, Harpeth Conservancy seeks funding to bring essential technological tools and expanded capacity to the conservation community in TN.

CEO Statement

The valleys and forested hillsides formed by the Harpeth River, and its many tributaries, are truly a unique place to live, work, and play. We live in one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse watersheds in the world! In a 2002 study by the Nature Conservancy, the lower Harpeth, from Highway 100 near Warner Parks to the Cumberland, was identified as one of 69 priority areas for freshwater conservation in the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems. Those of us living in this watershed are the stewards of the future of this river system. It is always better to be proactive than reactive. Private sector dollars are crucial to securing important government grants and also allow us the flexibility to react to issues emerging from the changing dynamics of growth. One such issue is the increased use of alternative sewage treatment systems that enable dense development in most areas, thus changing the dynamics of local planning and development. Harpeth Conservancy is distinctive in our broad base of support. Our relationships with the local leaders and individuals in communities within this watershed help us collaborate, problem solve, and implement effective solutions. These conservation tools insure long term clean air and water which are vital to long term economic growth. We also apply this expertise gained from working locally, through this large river system that runs through multiple jurisdictions, to statewide water quality and land conservation policy. We, in turn, share our expertise in restoration and watershed planning with local partners in other areas around the state.

Board Chair Statement

Our work leverages the scientific and technical training and experience of our staff and advisors with the efforts of a diverse corps of volunteers. 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 efforts to restore river flows through removal of the lowhead dam and our current efforts to develop a plan to reduce pollution entering the Harpeth. 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. With 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.

Service Categories

Primary Category: Environment  - Water Resource, Wetlands Conservation & Management 
Secondary Category: Public & Societal Benefit  - Citizen Participation 
Tertiary Category: -

Areas Served

Harpeth Conservancy works to restore and protect clean water and healthy ecosystems for rivers across Tennessee. While we remain focused on protecting the Harpeth River Watershed, including Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Rutherford, and Williamson Counties, our work impacts policies and regulations that affect water quality and environmental issues statewide.

TN - Cheatham
TN - Davidson
TN - Dickson
TN - Hickman
TN - Rutherford
TN - Williamson