Watershed Planning Vision Process Workshops


The WPP is a statewide program with a mission to protect, enhance and restore the quality and value of the waters of the Commonwealth. The program consists of environmental scientists, biologists, engineers and planners engaged in various activities required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and associated regulations (see CWA Summary, CWA and the Water Quality Standards Regulation). The CWA directs states to monitor and report on the condition of their water resources.  Documentation of the condition of surface waters as to whether they are healthy or impaired is essential to the Nation's water pollution control effort.  It is the principal means by which we evaluate water quality, create plans necessary to restore and protect our surface waters, and assess progress toward our water quality goals.  WPP personnel are co-located with the Department’s Central Regional Office (CERO) in Worcester, a strategic location affording the best statewide access to conduct surface water monitoring activities.

WPP is responsible for:  

  • Developing and implementing the Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) regulations (314 CMR 4.00) pursuant to the CWA  
  • Monitoring the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of surface waters in the Commonwealth
  • Managing and reporting results of surface water quality monitoring data
  • Assessing surface water quality conditions and attainment of existing and designated uses as defined in the SWQS
  • Protecting high quality waters and developing plans to restore impaired surface waters
  • Supporting associated surface water quality programs, such as the nonpoint source (319) and water quality management planning (604(b)) grant programs, watershed-based plans (WBP), and MassDEP’s WBP Tool.

Additional Information on each major program is as follows:

Development of Standards and Criteria (314 CMR 4.00): The Water Quality Standards Section is responsible for developing statewide pollutant criteria and related policies; designating uses and associated classifications for surface waters; and implementing the SWQS regulations and policies that restore and prevent the degradation of surface waters.  The criteria listed in the SWQS are the foundation for the USEPA’s and MassDEP’s issuance of permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and waterbody health assessments. The Commonwealth is required under the CWA to frequently update the SWQS; a process that includes stakeholder engagement, inter-agency coordination, issuing public notices and conducting public hearings.  These standards must then be approved by USEPA before implementation.

Monitoring of Surface Waters: The Monitoring Section conducts environmental monitoring activities that support water management, including the assessment of surface waters, criteria development, the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) and other water management plans. Monitoring program elements include both deterministic (targeted) and probabilistic (random) sampling networks that encompass both rotating watershed monitoring cycles as well as non-rotating, priority-driven schedules. The program deploys sampling probes, assesses habitat, and collects water and biological samples, such as bacteria, algae, fish and macroinvertebrates (e.g., insects, worms, snails, etc.). Data quality is assured through the development and implementation of quality assurance project plans (QAPPs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in both the field and laboratory. Final project results are reported in technical reports and memoranda (see Technical Reports).

Management of Data and Assessment of Surface Waters: The Data and Assessment Section manages data generated by the WPP. The section also reports to EPA and the public as required by the CWA on the quality of the Commonwealth’s surface waters and whether they support the designated uses (such as recreation, fishing, and aquatic life) assigned to those waters under the SWQS.  Surface water quality sampling station locations are described, assigned unique sampling identification codes, and georeferenced.  The program’s surface water quality monitoring stations are available as a datalayer at MassGIS, which is updated periodically (see Water Quality Monitoring Stations).  The program validates the monitoring data, including performing quality assurance reviews, and finalized data are stored in electronic database files.  These data are made available through direct requests to MassDEP staff, electronic database files on WPP servers, and through MassDEP’s website (see Water Quality Monitoring Program Data).  

Validated water quality monitoring data, as well as quality-assured data from outside groups, are used by the WPP to report on the state’s surface water quality conditions.  The Assessment group develops the Massachusetts Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (CALM) Guidance Manual (see 2016 CALM pdf format of 2016 Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology
file size 4MB) which describes data evaluation procedures.  WPP analysts evaluate whether or not the designated uses of surface waters are supported.  The assessments are reported to the USEPA and the public in the form of an Integrated List of Waters report (IR Report) every two years (see IR Reports and 2016 IR Report pdf format of DRAFT Massachusetts Year 2016 Integrated List of Waters
file size 3MB). A georeferenced interactive mapping tool displays the current surface waters assessed and their associated status (see Interactive Mapping of the Integrated List of Waters).  These data are also made available to the public as an ArcMap datalayer (see MassGIS datalayer).

Development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs): The TMDL Section analyzes surface water data, develops land use and water quality models, and performs technical analyses to determine the maximum amount of any pollutant that can be discharged to surface water and still meet water quality standards (TMDL development).  TMDLs are required under Section 303(d) of the CWA for waterbodies that are not meeting designated uses, also referred to as Category 5 Impaired waters. Program tasks include the identification and quantification of all discharges to surface waters and the development of implementation plans to manage those discharges. As part of TMDL development, WPP conducts public meetings and responds to comments, revises the TMDLs as necessary, and submits the plans to EPA for approval.

Other Useful Links

Massachusetts Estuaries Program (MEP)

Non-Governmental Organization and Volunteer Resources:

Volunteer Monitoring: Includes information on Quality Assurance Program Plan (QAPP) Review and Example Field Data Collection Sheets

External Data Submission

Watershed Planning Vision Process Workshops

Creating a Long-Term Vision for Assessment, Restoration, and Protection under the Clean Water Act in Massachusetts

In December 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new collaborative framework for implementing the Clean Water Act (CWA): A Long-Term Vision for Assessment, Restoration and Protection under the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) Program (the Vision). The Vision was developed using over two decades of experience assessing and reporting on water quality and developing total maximum daily loads or TMDLs. States and EPA used those lessons learned to develop a framework for enhancing efficiency in achieving water quality improvement and protection goals. The Vision is a new framework for managing CWA program responsibilities.

Using this framework, MassDEP’s Watershed Planning Program organized a series of workshops and invited a wide variety of stakeholders to provide input on the development of a 10-year vision (the Vision) for the assessment, restoration, and protection of surface waters in Massachusetts. To date, three workshops have been held, each focusing on various elements of the Vision: prioritization, monitoring, assessment, alternatives, engagement and integration.  

Workshop Resources List pdf format of Workshop Resources List

November 9, 2016 - CWA Vision Kick-off

MassDEP’s Division of Watershed Management, Watershed Planning Program, hosted a workshop to kick off the development of a Vision for the assessment, restoration, and protection of surface waters in Massachusetts under the Clean Water Act.

Workshop Objectives

  • Share MassDEP’s Watershed Planning Program’s mission and EPA’s national Vision framework;
  • Present each of the six elements of the EPA Vision framework (Prioritization, Assessment, Protection, Alternatives, Engagement, and Integration);
  • Provide examples of practices and tools under each element;
  • Collect input on opportunities to enhance the use of tools to achieve mutual surface water quality goals; and
  • Enhance stakeholder engagement by expanding and improving communication; and promoting the sharing of resources and experiences.

Speakers and Presentations


Session 1 - Panel & Discussion: Engagement, Prioritization, and Protection:

Session 2 - Panel & Discussion: Assessment, Alternatives, and Integration:


March 8, 2017

Workshop Objective: To support the development of a 10-year Vision for prioritizing surface waters for protection and restoration.

Speakers and Presentations

Panel Presentations: Case studies were presented illustrating prioritization of activities for protection and restoration from varied perspectives and at varied planning scales. Each panel member gave a 10-minute presentation, followed by a 5-minute question-and-answer period.

  • Allison Roy,  US Geological Service (USGS): Assistant Unit Leader, MA Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; also, University of Massachusetts: Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation - Headwater Stream Restoration and Protection Prioritization.
    To request a copy of her talk, please contact Ms. Roy at aroy@eco.umass.edu or WPP's Anna Mayor at anna.mayor@state.ma.us.
  • Brad Chase,  Department of Fish and Game: project leader for Diadromous Fish Biology and Management and Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration - Diadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Prioritization pdf format of Diadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Prioritization
file size 2MB
  • Andy Hrycyna,  Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA): Watershed Scientist - Prioritizing Alternative Restoration Plans pdf format of Partnering for Restoration - Mystic River
file size 1MB
  • Phil Guerin,  City of Worcester Department of Public Works and Parks (DPW&P): Director of Water & Sewer Operations - Prioritization within Stormwater Management pdf format of Prioritizing Pollutant Removal from Stormwater

Breakout Sessions:

Prioritization for Protection & Implementation Measures: discussion focused on prioritization for protection of surface waters within the diversity of Massachusetts landscapes.

  • What are the resources in your area that drive the need for protection?
  • How do you/would you rank these?
  • Are these methods of ranking adequate? Are any critical needs left out?
  • What measures will achieve protection goals in your watersheds?

Prioritization for Restoration & Implementation Alternatives: discussion focused on prioritization for restoration, the implementation of TMDLs, and alternative plans and actions.

  • What are the threats to water quality in your area?
  • How do you/would you prioritize restoration efforts (examples: by pollutant, species impacts, waterbody, permit requirements, level of interest, ease of implementation, availability of resources)?
  • What are the barriers to implementation?
  • Who will plan and implement restoration actions?  Identify partnership opportunities?

Facilitated Collective Discussion: Summarized and developed the common themes identified regarding prioritization of protection and restoration plans.


April 26, 2017

Workshop Objective: To support development of MassDEP’s long-term vision for the monitoring and assessment of surface waters in Massachusetts, and the engagement and integration of stakeholders in their restoration and protection.

Speakers and Presentations

Panel Presentations: A balanced monitoring program that supplies real-time defensible water quality information is only as strong as the program’s weakest link. The panel presented the key elements of robust monitoring and assessment programs that include program design, QAPP development, data collection, validation, management, analysis and reporting. Each panel member gave a 15-minute presentation, followed by a 5-minute question-and-answer period.

Morning Panel Presentations: Elements of a Balanced Monitoring Program

Breakout Sessions and Reporting - Monitoring & Assessment: discussion focused on monitoring and assessment needs.

  • What questions are you trying to answer through your monitoring program?
  • How did you select these questions - what were the drivers?
  • Why are answers to these questions important to you?
  • With whom do you share your data and how
  • How do you use your data when communicating with your target audience (and what is your target audience)?

Afternoon Panel Presentations: Engagement & Integration for Monitoring and Assessment

  • Chris Hirsch, Neponset River Watershed Association (NepRWA): Environmental Scientist - NepRWA’s Hotspot Program Partners with Local Towns to Find Sources of Pollution and Eliminate Them pdf format of Hot Spot Monitoring
file size 2MB
  • Beth Lambert, Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), Director, Aquatic Habitat Restoration Program - Working Collectively to Preserve, Restore, and Reconnect our Cold Water Resources
  • Kristina Masterson, CDM Smith, Water Resources Engineer & Consultant to Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District (UBWPAD) - The UBWPAD's In-Stream Water Quality Monitoring Program

Facilitated Collective Discussion: Opportunities for Engagement and Integration: discussion focused on opportunities for engagement and integration and charting a new path forward.

  • What are your ideas for opportunities to collaborate with MassDEP, other Federal, State or Municipal departments, or other groups on water quality programs moving forward?
  • What limits opportunities for collaboration and partnership? How do we address these obstacles?
  • How can collaboration be enhanced moving forward?