On Thursday, January 21, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it would be proposing regulatory changes to Water Management Act registrations that would require registrants to abide by water use conditions during times of drought.
DEP announced its intention during a Water Management Act Stakeholders Group meeting, where state agency staff described the impacts of on Massachusetts' water supplies and environmental health. Staff also noted that "flash droughts" are increasing with climate change, and the ability to better manage water during droughts will help improve the state's climate resiliency.
The proposed new regulations would require most registrants to put in place water conservation restrictions on non-essential outdoor watering (typically lawn watering), as detailed in the state's 2019 Drought Management Plan.
Surface water suppliers who have approved drought plans that ensure sufficient water for both water supply and environmental needs during droughts would be exempt from this requirement.
Registrations for water allocation were granted to water users according to their water use from 1981-1985 with the minimal conditions that the water supplier meter and report water use to the state. Registrations are renewed every ten years. The registrations were grandfathered in when the Water Management Act was passed in 1986. Any additional water added to these amounts, or new requests (of over 100,000 gallons per day), since 1986 must receive a permit, which are subject to various conservation conditions.
The next Water Management Stakeholder Group meeting is Thursday, February 25 at 1 PM, and is open to the public. At the meeting MassDEP staff laid out a process for developing the regulations that includes stakeholder discussions, internal review at DEP, a public comment period, and approval by the Water Resources Commission. Registrations must be renewed by December 31 of this year.