What We Planned

  • Protect existing and future sources of drinking water through outreach to public water systems, municipalities, watershed groups and others.
  • Continue to evaluate public water systems for technical, financial and managerial soundness.
  • Prioritize sanitary surveys.
  • Continue to evaluate the ability of public water systems to respond to a water quality or water quantity emergency.
  • Continue compliance assistance to prepare public water systems for new federal rules that go into effect through 2005.
  • Evaluate systems for compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.
  • Set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for perchlorate.
  • Increase water conservation performance standards for Water Management Act permits.
  • Define stream flow requirements and identify methods for restoring impaired flows.
  • Support EOEA efforts to complete the Water Assets Project and begin the Water Budget Project.
  • Coordinate drinking water supply protection with MassDEP programs and other state agencies.

What We Did

In FY 05, the Drinking Water Program (DWP) helped water suppliers, municipalities and watershed groups implement local protection at public wells and reservoirs. This work included assisting with the development of bylaws, ordinances and local protection plans. MassDEP's Source Water Assessment and Protection Program (SWAP) was completed, providing all public water systems in the state with an assessment report and GIS mapping identifying potential contaminant threats. The report contained recommendations for local actions to address those threats.


Tributary to Cobble Mountain Reservoir, City of Springfield Supply, Blandford, MA, photo by Eva Tor, MassDEP

When permitting new drinking water sources, MassDEP is careful to assure that sources are not located near potential contamination.  New sources, as well as existing sources where major modifications are proposed, are reviewed in this process.

The sanitary survey program prioritized systems that needed help complying with public health protection requirements and new or anticipated regulations. One hundred and sixty four (164) sanitary surveys were planned for FY 2005. Due to staffing shortages, 147 surveys were conducted. Staff evaluated the systems for technical, financial and managerial capacity and for each system's ability to respond to an emergency of water quantity or quality. Ninety-one of the systems were determined to have the capacity to appropriately respond to an emergency. The remaining 56 systems were notified of deficiencies and are taking steps to correct them.

Staff worked with public water systems to ensure compliance when new federal rules, such as the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule; the Long Term 2 Surface Water Treatment Rule, and the Groundwater Rule, go into effect. 

One third of all community and non-transient non-community systems have been evaluated for compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule. Their sampling plans have been updated to meet new EPA guidance and each system's staff has been trained on the new requirements.

MassDEP staff evaluated studies to set an MCL for perchlorate and prepared a regulatory package. Additional data is currently being reviewed before putting a proposed MCL out for public comment.   

The new mapping of potential contaminant sources using GIS and the improvements made to existing GIS databases has enabled the Drinking Water Program to coordinate with other state programs to prioritize inspection and compliance activities within drinking water protection areas. 

Although MassDEP does not regulate private wells, DWP's work with public water systems also protects private wells in many cases. The Program provides outreach materials and technical assistance to homeowners on private well issues.

The Drinking Water Program administers and enforces the Massachusetts Water Management Act pdf format of 310 CMR 36.00: The Water Management Act Regulations
file size 1MB through the Water Management Program (WMP). Staff has increased water conservation performance standards for water withdrawal permits; revised reporting forms to obtain more accurate information about residential water use and unaccounted for water losses in the system; and partnered with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) to update the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Water Conservation Standards. The WMP also promulgated changes to the regulations for the Water Management Act to more specifically reflect current scientific knowledge on maintaining and protecting water resources.

WMP staff had planned to perform 109 five-year reviews for permit compliance. Forty-nine reviews were completed. The review of additional permits was placed on hold while MassDEP finalizes revisions to a water use policy that applies specific performance to permits based on the level of stress in that basin. The revisions will allow some flexibility and incentives to suppliers to achieve the goals of the policy.  A focus group of professionals involved in water-related issues and existing groups that work with MassDEP have been discussing specific issues related to implementation of the policy. 

DWP staff worked with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on projects to identify stream flow requirements and methods for restoring impaired flows. Staff participated on a statewide stream flow task force to define protective flow targets and worked with EOEA on the Water Assets and Water Budget Projects. 

The Drinking Water Program Gets Results!

  • Protected drinking water at all 1,714 public water systems in the state, serving 6.9 million people, and provided incentives for protection by water systems and municipalities;
  • Drinking water is currently tested for 90 contaminants; in 2004 93% of all Massachusetts systems were in compliance with water quality standards; in 2005, 94% were in compliance;
  • Approved 49 local protection plans for public wells and reservoirs;
  • 95% of WMP registrants and permit holders complied with reporting requirements and 98% maintained authorized withdrawal limits;
  • Ensured the protection of ecological health while meeting human and economic needs by placing withdrawal restrictions on permits, such as limiting non-essential outside water use when stream flow falls below habitat needs;
  • Improved accuracy of measuring the impact of a water withdrawal on stream flow;
  • Improved the ability to determine where stream flow improvements are needed.