Washington is blessed with beauty of the Shepaug River and Lake Waramaug, but both have been environmentally challenged over the years. The Washington Environmental Council has been part of a broad coalition in preserving these water ways and continues to monitor and react to threats from invasive plants, poor water conditions and pollution.
The Shepaug River headwaters are dammed, forming the Cairns and Shepaug Reservoirs in Warren and then flows south and is joined by the Bantam River in Washington. It continues through town and the Steep Rock preserves into Roxbury, finally joining Lake Lillinonah in Southbury. After decades of insufficient summer flows due to an outdated water sharing agreement with the city of Waterbury, a coalition led by the Shepaug River Association, the Steep Rock Association and the Town of Washington filed a lawsuit against Waterbury to redress the situation. After the expenditure of much time, energy and resources, a new agreement was entered into between the Town of Washington and Waterbury to restore adequate water flows to the river. In 2006, the State, as part of the new agreement, funded certain repairs at the reservoirs and paid for new equipment requisite to a restoration of adequate water flows to the river. This increased flow was calculated to be sufficient to protect the Shepaug's ecosystem and support healthy aquatic life and surrounding habitat. Over time the river should return to a natural condition not seen in several generations.
Lake Waramaug, named after an ancient Indian Chief, is one of the largest natural lakes in the state. Surrounded by the Litchfield Hills, Lake Waramaug's pristine water has made it a center for boating, fishing and other recreational activities. However, this was not always the case. It took the Lake Waramug Task Force over 20 years of hard work and the use of innovative scientific lake systems to improve the water quality that had deteriorated due to the heavy runoff of phosphorus rich fertilizer into the lake. This runoff caused excessive algae and aquatic weed growth which had to be delt with. In the last 10 years the threat of invasive species has grown, threatening the delicate balance between native plants and invasive species, such as Curly leaf Pondweed. The Lake Waramaug Task force established early detectionsystems and had a plan in place to deal with these developments. So far, the Task Force has bee successful in dealing with the ongoing threat of invasive plants.