Robert Zimmerman

Lecturer in Landscape Architecture

Bob Zimmerman served as Director of the Charles River Watershed Association from 1990 to 2018. During his tenure, CRWA became a leading authority on the science of water in urban watersheds, developing programs addressing combined sewer overflows, stormwater pollution, flooding, water quality, low instream flow, nutrient loading, habitat protection and restoration, sustainable development, the economics of water infrastructure, zoning and regulatory reform, and the vagaries of climate change in its urban manifestations. Critical to the work was the early recognition that urban infrastructure, and particularly urban water infrastructure, is the root cause of virtually all of the problems with water in megalopilan regions. As a consequence, Zimmerman focused CRWA resources on developing distributed wastewater infrastructure using sewage to generate renewable energy, thermal energy, and reclaimed water as well as significant profits, sustain and restore local surface water bodies, all while dramatically enhancing flood control and drought resilience. Zimmerman coauthored Transformation: Water Infrastructure for a Sustainable Future detailing the work and a blog series entitled Water Transformation explaining the approach.

In an effort to better understand and source cyanobacteria, Zimmerman contracted with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and US EPA to undertake a “total maximum daily load” analysis for phosphorus for 70 miles of the Charles River. The resulting analysis was based on contributions of phosphates by land use type, leading to previously unknown identification of major nutrient sources from pavement, and particularly commercial, industrial, and high density residential land uses. His was the only nonprofit in the nation to undertake such a study and computer modeling effort. The work ultimately led to the development of a phosphorus trading program and market which would generate profits, reduce costs for capturing and controlling stormwater and flooding, and reduce heat island effect.

The Charles, among the most polluted rivers in the nation in 1990, is now called the cleanest urban river in the nation by US EPA due in large measure to the catalytic work of CRWA.

Prior to working at CRWA, Zimmerman co-founded and was the Headmaster of the National Sports Academy at Lake Placid, a boarding school offering a preparatory curriculum and training program for winter sports athletes. He has an MA in English, and a BA in English and History from Central Michigan University.