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Charles River receives A- for water quality

The Charles River was awarded an A- for water quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced at a ceremony held Wednesday at the Boston Museum of Science.

The grade is reported annually and is based on bacteria sampling from the previous year, so this year’s A- reflects the water quality in 2013. The Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) reported that “the Charles River was safe for boating 96 percent of the time and safe for swimming 70 percent of the time, representing the highest safe swimming percentage in the past 19 years.”

Swimming conditions depend on the amount of recent rainfall and the location on the river. The CRWA regularly monitors ten boating locations along the Charles and posts daily flag colors on their website that represent whether or not they deem the river in that area safe for boating.

The Charles River’s water quality grade has been steadily improving. When reporting began in 1995, the Charles received a D. Water quality ranked in the C range from 1996 to 1998 and had been steady in the B range from 1999 to 2012.

One effort to purify the water in the Charles River has been the Clean Charles River Initiative, which has been working since 1995 to reduce sources of pollution to the river, such as sewers and storm overflows. Additionally, the Metropolitan Water Resources Authority has spent over $5 billion on projects that have improved the water quality in both the Charles River and the Boston Harbor.

—Alexandra Delmore