About Us / About the Conservancy

The Harpeth Conservancy, formerly known as the Harpeth River Watershed Association (HRWA), in middle Tennessee is a science-based conservation organization dedicated to clean water and healthy ecosystems for rivers in Tennessee. For more than 18 years, the Harpeth Conservancy has worked to monitor, restore and protect the State Scenic Harpeth River and its tributaries. 

In 1999, the Harpeth River Watershed Association was founded. In June 2017, Harpeth River Watershed Association changed its name to the Harpeth Conservancy. This name change, which is effective immediately, is part of the larger rebranding of the organization which involved the HRWA Board, Advisory Board, staff and other key stakeholders. This rebranding included articulation of a new vision, mission statement, and graphic identity. 

The Harpeth Conservancy's mission is to restore and protect clean water and healthy ecosystems for rivers in Tennessee by employing scientific expertise and collaborative relationships to develop, promote and support broad community stewardship and action.  Harpeth Conservancy works with landowners, businesses, community, local, state, and federal decision makers and others to foster solutions that reduce pollution and maintain healthy areas.  The rivers in Tennessee, including the Harpeth, are part of the unique freshwater river systems of the Southeast which contain some of the greatest variety of aquatic life in the world.

Watch the Harpeth Conservancy Video

Supported by a broad network of volunteers, donors, and professional staff, Harpeth Conservancy has expertise in a range of disciplines including water quality science, environmental and conservation law and policy, sustainable land use planning, agricultural best management practices, volunteer and community engagement, and others. Our organization engages in land development decisions, promotes smart growth and agricultural management practices, designs stream restoration plans, assesses sewer and drinking water challenges, conducts river studies, ensures pollution threats are removed, promotes recreation and public education, and serves as a catalyst for effective statewide conservation policies.

Harpeth Conservancy uses its expertise, applied science and relationships with landowners, businesses, residents and policy decision-makers to develop solutions inclusive of the people who live and work here. By seeking water quality solutions developed with diverse stakeholders, Harpeth Conservancy builds broad stewardship and shared responsibility for streams and rivers in our communities that are vital for the state’s economic well-being and quality of life.

With a 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. The Harpeth Conservancy relies on the support of its members and generous individuals and corporations to provide critical funding that supports scientific and technical staff and gives flexibility to program work.

Harpeth Conservancy's Long-Term Commitment to Watershed Health
The scientific and technical staff of the Harpeth Conservancy, advised by a broad range of experts and assisted by trained volunteers, are working to assess water quality and stream habitat. This lays the groundwork for long-term improvements in river health. Founded in 1999, the Harpeth Conservancy is the only organization which focuses its efforts on the entire Harpeth River, from its birth in Rutherford County to its union with the Cumberland River along the border of Dickson and Cheatham Counties. 

The Harpeth Conservancy is committed to re-building and maintaining the ecological balance of our watershed diversity amidst the various human uses of the landscape. We are doing this by forging partnerships in order to provide information, training, and activities that enable homeowners, landowners, families, farmers, businesses, researchers, and government agencies to directly enhance areas of the watershed.

Pioneering Sediment Study
How muddy is the Harpeth River? Construction sites with poor erosion control are a major source of sediment, or “mud,” as are eroding streambanks. Once sediment accumulates in a stream it smothers wildlife and habitats, and negatively affects water flow patterns. In a two-year study designed by the Cumberland River Compact, Harpeth Conservancy trained volunteers measured sediment levels throughout the watershed, clearly establishing that sediment is the Harpeth’s top water quality problem. Sites along the main Harpeth and Little Harpeth downstream from Franklin, Brentwood, and Bellevue were 3 to more than 15 times muddier than near-pristine sites located in the headwaters of the South Harpeth. A follow-up study of streambank erosion is now in progress.

Assessing Streambank Conditions
The plants and trees along streambanks provide vital functions for the health of the river by filtering runoff water from adjacent land and providing cooling shade. In 2001, Harpeth Conservancy trained volunteers assessed and photographed 217 sites on nearly all of the streams classified as “impaired” by the state. More than half the sites, whether in developed or agricultural areas, had little to no streambank vegetation.

River Restoration Program - You Can Help
Harpeth Conservancy has initiated a number of pilot projects in neighborhoods, parks, farms, and on private property around the Harpeth to restore endangered streambanks. With our volunteer corps, we can provide valuable assistance in labor, equipment, and expertise. Contact us to learn how you or your company, classroom, scout troop, or church group can participate!

Facilitating Better Practices for Growth
The Harpeth Conservancy is working with a range of private and government partners on land use planning and encouraging the use of better development and road design, more effective erosion control, infiltration stormwater designs, improved stream buffers, greater water and energy efficiency, and other long-term solutions.

The Harpeth Conservancy relies on the support of its members and generous individuals and corporations to provide critical funding that supports scientific and technical staff and gives flexibility to program work. 

Corporate and Financial Information such as by-laws and recent tax filings (990s) can be found on the Giving Matters web site that is a project of the Community Foundation of Middle TN.