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Alewife Reservation Stormwater Wetland

An Urban Environmental Marvel
The Cambridge Department of Public Works  |  Cambridge, Massachusetts


Through hydraulic computer modeling, MWH helped alleviate stormwater flooding in Cambridge, M.A., by creating a stormwater wetland to enhance water quality and provide recreational benefits to the community.

Project Scope

The project required complete separation of a combined sewer system along with partial separation of adjacent combined sewer overflow areas. The City of Cambridge engaged MWH Global to develop the City’s first hydraulic storm water model in this regard with the following objectives:

  1. Eliminate flooding for the 10-year storm.
  2. Restrict the peak discharge of storm water to the Alewife Brook to not exceed existing conditions.



Reduction in Sewer Overflow

Native Plant Species

Accommodates 10-Year Storm Event

National Engineering Awards

 Project Challenge

Though the impetus for the project was combined sewer overflow and flood control, its environmental impact and potential benefit quickly became the focus of project stakeholders and the engineering team. The Department of Conservation and Recreation would not approve a common detention basin for storage of sewer overflows. This led to the concept of an engineered stormwater wetland and resurrection of The Great Swamp.


Alewife Reservation Stormwater Wetland
Alewife Reservation Stormwater Wetland

Project Solution / Result

The value of the Wetland is felt by Cambridge’s citizens. Public health is improved through reduced sewer system overflows and sewer backups into basements. Nuisance flooding in the public right of way is reduced. Citizens are also recognizing an increase in their quality of life. The Wetland features walking paths, boardwalks, disabled access, an amphitheater and educational signage.



“This project serves as an example of imagination, rigorous technical application, and a lot of hard work.”

Owen O’Riordan

Commissioner, Cambridge Department of Public Works

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