The Watershed Protection Act
The Watershed Protection Act (WsPA) regulates land use and activities within critical areas of the Quabbin Reservoir, Ware River and Wachusett Reservoir watersheds for the purpose of protecting the quality of drinking water. Administered by the Division of Water Supply Protection (formerly the MDC Division of Watershed Management), WsPA applies only in towns in DCR watersheds. Click here to see names of towns affected by WsPA and references to the full text of the act and its regulations.
Why Regulate Land Use?
Protected Zones and Restrictions
Between 200 and 400 feet of tributaries and surface waters, and on land within flood plains, over some aquifers, and within bordering vegetated wetlands (the "Secondary Protection Zone"), certain activities are specifically prohibited. These include storage, disposal or use of toxic, hazardous, and certain other materials; alteration of bordering vegetated wetlands; more dense development; and other activities. See 350 CMR 11.04 for a complete list.
New! DCR has collobarated with MassGIS to create an on-line viewer of Watershed Protection Act protection zones. Click here for the MassGIS website. Please note that compliance with the WsPA is the property owner's responsibility. DCR encourages you to contact the appropriate field office if you intend to build on, or otherwise alter, a piece of property in the watershed system.
See 350 CMR 11.05 for a complete list.
Many exemptions are subject to qualifications. For instance, an expansion is exempt only if it does not degrade water quality. For anything other than an existing activity, therefore, contact DCR (phone numbers are at the end of this page) and make an application even though the activity may be exempt.
Types of WsPA Applications
Advisory Ruling: This type of application gives an informal indication of whether WsPA applies to the proposed activity. To apply for an Advisory Ruling, send a letter to one of the addresses on the back of this brochure and include:
Send the letter requesting an Advisory Ruling to the address shown on the back. An advisory ruling usually takes a few days to a few weeks, unless the project is complicated and warrants further review.
Determination of Applicability: This application is to determine whether WsPA applies to the proposed activity, or if the activity might be exempt or otherwise not prohibited. It yields a formal determination, with a 60-day time limit for an answer, which may be recorded at the local Registry of Deeds.
Variance: Apply for a Variance if WsPA does apply but it can be demonstrated that the proposed activity will not impair water quality.
Exemption of a Tributary: Apply for this exemption if WsPA applies, but a tributary or portion of one can be exempted with no significant risk to water quality.
Except for Advisory Rulings, the applications require specific forms. For forms, full text of the regulations, and further information, go to the end of this page.
Coverage of WsPA
With this information and assessors maps, owners of affected parcels were identified (to the extent possible) and notified in November 1994 that WsPA affects their land. Information of varying accuracy was used, and some parcels were not identified, including:
We continue to try to make this information as accurate as possible. Please contact DWSP if you are aware of errors.