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In November 2020, we launched a new Technical Assistance program to support our member groups' efforts to protect Massachusetts' streams and rivers by helping them use legal, regulatory, and programmatic tools available to them, like the state's Water Management Act.  Our technical support increases the capacity of river advocates across the state working to protect and restore streamflow, increase climate resilience, and improve environmental justice. 

Ipswich River during drought with low streamflow

Ipswich River

Nashua River during drought with low streamflow
Weir River in Hingham during drought with low streamflow

Weir River

Nashua River

Winthrop St bridge in Hamilton during drought with low streamflow

Ipswich River

Water Management Act Technical Assistance 

Under the Water Management Act (1986), any new or additional surface water or groundwater withdrawals of 100,000 gallons per day since 1985 require a permit. Unlike registered withdrawals (water withdrawals existing between 1981 and 1985), permitted withdrawals are subject to the Act's 2014 revised regulations, which require some permittees to reduce impacts of their withdrawals on streamflow and aquatic habitat.

Permits are renewed once every 20 years, and conditions under the 2014 revised regulations have yet to be implemented in permits in the majority of basins due to delays (under the Permit Extension Act). However, permit renewals are now being prioritized by MassDEP, with renewals anticipated for 2021 in several stressed basins. 

Our program helps local watershed stewards and other river advocates participate more effectively in the permit renewal process. This is a critically important opportunity to advocate on behalf of the rivers – to protect streamflow and improve resilience of both water supplies and the environment against intensifying droughts. In recent years, smaller streams and rivers in all parts of the state have been experiencing severe low flows, particularly during the driest times of year, summer and early fall. Most Massachusetts residents rely on public water supplies, and this is a timely, once-in-20-years opportunity to better address the environmental impacts of our water use on riverine habitat and wildlife for the next generation.

Check out our interactive GIS map below of permitted water use in Massachusetts under the state's Water Management Act. Permits depicted below fall into three tiers, with the highest tiers requiring mitigation actions of increasing withdrawals. 

Map by John Doolin.

More information on the Water Management Act, its regulations, and guidance can be found here

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