Programs / Clean Water Protection

Clean Water Protection 

While the Harpeth Conservancy Restoration team works to clean up the river, the Clean Water Protection efforts focus on ensuring that policies and regulations are in place that support water quality that meets state and federal standards to support public health and wildlife. 

This is the core program of Harpeth Conservancy.  Efforts involve shaping growth and the built human landscape so that the ecological health of the river and its watershed is maintained and improved.  Harpeth Conservancy's expertise include watershed management and planning, stormwater management and regulations, clean water law and regulations, federal and state permitting and local planning and zoning, and land use planning.  

The Protect Our River Campaign launched August 2014.  The focus is on Franklin's important sewer and drinking water decisions.


Three sewage treatment plants discharge treated sewage (known as effluent) into the Harpeth River: Franklin, Cartwright Creek and Berry's Chapel. The Harpeth Conservancy helps protect the health of the river by working to ensure that these plants do not discharge more pollutants into the Harpeth than they are allowed to under the Clean Water Act.

Franklin Drinking Water

The City of Franklin's drinking water withdrawal permit is up for renewal. New restrictions need to be added in order to protect the Harpeth River from further degradation.

Toilet to Tap

The City of Franklin has spent $4 million in taxpayer funds on engineering studies that have produced a range of recommendations for addressing the growing need for drinking water and sewage treatment services. The city's preferred solution has been nicknamed "Toilet to Tap".


Land Use Planning - Under Construction!

There are many different ways to improve the Harpeth River, foster growth in this fast-growing region, and protect the natural beauty that has drawn so many people to want to live here. 


Egyptian Lacquer

Also known as ELMCO, this plant was found to be leaking chemicals into the Harpeth River in Franklin. 


Lowhead Dam Removal

Completed in 2012, the removal of the Lowhead Dam in Franklin makes the Harpeth River one of the few free-flowing rivers in the state.



How do we know if the river is safe? How do we know how much pollution can be added to the river and still keep it safe? The answers are in the science. 


Other Areas where Harpeth Conservancy has been working:

  • Bringing in experts and facilitating discussions on how to determine approaches to maintain adequate flow in rivers like the Harpeth for fish, wildlife, and recreation, and how to increase water use efficiency as drinking water needs grow in communities like Franklin that withdraw water from the Harpeth.  

  • Bringing approaches from around the country to TN with the Harpeth River as the pilot on collaborative approaches to establishing pollution reduction plans and a river-wide water quality monitoring program.

  • Demonstrating the use of stormwater and site design tools that local governments and developers can use to design developments to reduce runoff and to set aside undeveloped areas to minimize water pollution and stream bank erosion from new development   — specifically focusing on the Five Mile Creek growth corridor along I-65.  (see Five Mile Creek Watershed Management plan.)  Additional watershed plans have been completed for the headwaters (Rutherford County), West Harpeth (Williamson County), Jones Creek (Dickson County), and the South Harpeth (Williamson County).  

  • Responding to issues that arise such as working with state legislators on the importance of the State of Tennessee Scenic Rivers Act to protect important waterways like the Harpeth, one of 13 state scenic rivers, by prohibiting landfills near select scenic rivers in the Act to reduce the risk of water pollution.

  • Demonstration projects showcasing stormwater management practices that can be implemented by developers and local governments.

  • Working with local legislators to protect the Harpeth River under the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Act as well as protecting undeveloped areas of the watershed.