Douglas Fine, Assistant Commissioner

The Bureau of Water Resources is responsible for protecting critical inland and coastal water resources by:

  • controlling point and nonpoint sources of pollution,
  • safeguarding public drinking water supplies,
  • ensuring public access to the waterfront, and
  • administering revolving loan programs that help the state's towns and cities improve their environmental infrastructure.

Division of Watershed Management

The Division of Watershed Management consists of programs that are charged with the monitoring and regulatory activities affecting water quality and quantity within the state's major river basins. These programs focus on building local and regional partnerships to bring about water quality improvement.

  • Drinking Water
  • Wetlands & Chapter 91 Waterways,
  • Wastewater Management, and
  • Watershed Planning.

Drinking Water

The Drinking Water Program ensures that safe and pure drinking water is delivered by public water systems in Massachusetts according to national and state standards. As US EPA'S Primacy Agent for the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in Massachusetts, the Program regulates water quality monitoring, new source approvals, water supply treatment, distribution protection, and reporting of water quality data. It also coordinates with MassDEP's Office of Watershed Management, EEA's Water Resources Commission, and DCR's Division of Water Supply Protection in regulating quantity of water used for drinking water supplies and in promoting water conservation. The Program has an active community technical assistance program that assists public water suppliers, municipal Boards of Health, and other local groups in developing drinking water source protection plans, writing local water supply bylaws, and helps these groups to comply with state and federal water supply regulations. Other Program activities include approval of new water supply technologies, regulating water vendors, source approval for bottled water (bottling regulated by MA Department of Public Health), and public education on drinking water issues.
The Drinking Water Program administers and enforces:

  • The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 300f et seq.) as amended in 1986, and associated federal regulations (40 CFR 141-144).
  • Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 111, Sections 159 and 160, and associated state regulations at 310 CMR 21.00-24.00, 27.00 and 28.00.
  • The Water Management Act, MGL C. 21G, and associated regulations at 310 CMR 36.00 (In coordination with MA DEP/BWR/Division of Watershed Management).


The Wetlands Program ensures the protection of Massachusetts' inland and coastal wetlands, tidelands, great ponds, rivers and floodplains by administering and enforcing the Wetlands Protection Act (Chapter 131 sec. 40), the Inland and Coastal Wetlands Restrictions Acts, and the 401 Water Quality Certification Program. By regulating activities that may alter coastal and inland wetlands areas, the Wetlands Program ensures that the state's wetlands continue to provide valuable benefits, such as:

  • Flood control,
  • Prevention of pollution & storm damage,
  • The protection of public & private water supplies, groundwater, fisheries, land containing shellfish, and wildlife habitat.

Chapter 91 Waterways Program

The Commonwealth's primary tool for protection and promotion of public use of its tidelands and other waterways is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 91 (link exits MassDEP), the waterways licensing program. The Commonwealth formally established the program in 1866, but the philosophy behind Chapter 91 dates back to the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, most notably in the Colonial Ordinances of 1641-1647 (link exits MassDEP).

The Colonial Ordinances codified the "public trust doctrine," a legal principle that dates back to early Roman times, which holds that the air, sea and shore belong not to any one person, but rather to the public at large. The oldest program of its kind in the nation, Chapter 91 regulates activities on both coastal and inland waterways, including construction, dredging and filling in tidelands, great ponds and certain rivers and streams.

Watershed Planning

The Watershed Planning Program relies on the assessment of credible scientific environmental monitoring data to support a variety of mandated programs under the Federal Clean Water Act. The watershed planning program manages the health of the state's watersheds. This is largely accomplished through the development and implementation of various types of watershed assessments, some of which focus on a particular aspect of watershed health (i.e., water quality).

Wastewater Management

MassDEP's wastewater programs protect public health and the environment through regulation of discharges from:

  • treatment plants, industrial facilities, sewers, and other sources;
  • ensuring the safety of septic systems and alternative septic treatment technologies; and
  • preventing pollution from stormwater runoff.

The Division of Municipal Services

The mission of the Division of Municipal Services (DMS) is to provide financial assistance for municipal water and wastewater infrastructure projects that will encourage implementation of innovative and alternative decentralized solutions to municipal water and wastewater management problems to preserve water quality and abate pollution. By providing loans to municipalities and districts to finance the planning, design, and construction of wastewater treatment plants, infiltration and inflow reduction projects, combined sewer overflow correction projects, collection systems, water supply treatment, water filtration, and pollution prevention activities can be expanded. Secondary to the environmental gains this program achieves are significant benefits in the areas of job growth in the construction industry and substantial relief for the water and sewer rate payers throughout the Commonwealth.

The Division focuses on strengthening federal/state/municipal partnerships, improving communications with municipalities and districts, and optimizing capital spending to achieve measurable water quality improvements in the Commonwealth's watersheds, groundwater aquifers, and coastal ecosystems. The Division utilizes an integrated management planning approach to determine wastewater management needs in conjunction with local and regional officials with river basins as the fundamental planning unit. Primary responsibilities of the Division include implementing the State Revolving Fund Program, which oversees construction project financing for wastewater treatment projects and drinking water infrastructure projects, including the development, construction, payment, inspection, and closeout of SRF-financed projects.

The Office of Planning and Program Support

The Office of Planning and Program Support is the administrative backbone of BWR, providing specialized comprehensive fiscal and budget management of state and federal funds, grants, bonds and trust accounts that support BWR programs, analyzing environmental data to measure the effectiveness of the bureau's initiatives and programs, and providing a range of administrative services to the bureau. The Office of Planning and Program Support also provides support regarding program management; planning and analysis; information systems; and coordination of issues that cross Bureau, Division and Department boundaries.