Watershed-based Plan Information

Watershed-Based Plans organize information about the state's water bodies. The purpose of this is to help design projects to protect the watersheds.

Table of Contents

Purpose & Need

The purpose of a Massachusetts Watershed-Based Plan (WBP) is to organize information about Massachusetts watersheds, and present it in a format that will enhance the development and implementation of projects that will restore water quality and beneficial uses in the Commonwealth. The WBP follows EPA's recommended format and is presented consistent with Massachusetts's twenty-seven major planning basins.

All states are required to develop WBPs, but not all states have taken the same approach. Many states, including most or all in New England, have chosen to develop watershed-based plans only for selected watersheds. This will necessarily focus their efforts, and limit their 319 grant funds, to the selected basins. MassDEP's approach has been to develop the WBP statewide, so that good projects in all basins will remain eligible for 319 implementation funds.


EPA guidelines promote the use of Section 319 funding for developing and implementing Watershed-Based Plans. Watershed-Based Plans are required for all projects implemented with s.319 incremental dollars, and are recommended for all watershed projects, whether they are designed to protect unimpaired waters, restore impaired waters, or both.  The Guidelines list nine components required to be included in Watershed-Based Plans to restore waters impaired by nonpoint source pollution.

The nine components of a Watershed-Based Plan required by EPA are as follows:

  1. An identification of the causes and sources or groups of similar sources that will need to be controlled to achieve the load reductions estimated in this watershed-based plan (and to achieve any other watershed goals identified in the watershed-based plan), as discussed in item (b) immediately below.
  2. An estimate of the load reductions expected for the management measures described under paragraph (c) below (recognizing the natural variability and the difficulty in precisely predicting the performance of management measures over time).
  3. A description of the NPS management measures that will need to be implemented to achieve the load reductions estimated under paragraph (b) above (as well as to achieve other watershed goals identified in this watershed-based plan), and an identification (using a map or a description) of the critical areas in which those measures will be needed to implement this plan.
  4. An estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon, to implement this plan. As sources of funding, States should consider the use of their Section 319 programs, State Revolving Funds, USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Reserve Program, and other relevant Federal, State, local and private funds that may be available to assist in implementing this plan.
  5. An information/education component that will be used to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing the NPS management measures that will be implemented.
  6. A schedule for implementing the NPS management measures identified in this plan that is reasonably expeditious.
  7. A description of interim, measurable milestones for determining whether NPS management measures or other control actions are being implemented.
  8. A set of criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made towards attaining water quality standards and, if not, the criteria for determining whether this watershed-based plan needs to be revised or, if a NPS TMDL has been established, whether the NPS TMDL needs to be revised.
  9. A monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria established under item (h) immediately above.

Additional Resources for Background

Information Sources

A number of fundamental resource documents provided the information for this WBP. The exact set of resources for each basin is spelled out in the technical memo for the basin. In general, the reference documents include:

In many cases, a great deal of additional information was available but not directly cited, because the information has also been incorporated into the basic resource documents. Data not supported by a DEP- and EPA approved Quality Assurance Project Plan has not been used.
Integrated List Categories of Impairment:
Category 4: Represents a water quality impairment which does not require a TMDL.
Category 4a - TMDL is completed.
Category 4b - Waters expected to attain all designated uses in the near future.
Category 4c - Impairment is not caused by a pollutant.
Category 5: Represents a water quality impairment which requires a TMDL.

How to Use the WBP

The WBP will help you to identify known and likely causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution in your watershed. It will also help you to prioritize the NPS problems, identify appropriate best management practices and watershed-based strategies for addressing the problems, and develop winning proposals to fund the work using 319 nonpoint source competitive grant funds or similar programs.

MassDEP sponsored a 3-hour workshop Wednesday, April 7, 2021 that included an overview of the components of a watershed plan, a demonstration of the WBP tool's key features and a hands-on exercise with tips and tricks to build effective WBPs. The meeting Powerpoint and video recording of the overview portion of the meeting are below.

MassDEP sponsored a 2-hour workshop on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, at 1pm, which included an overview of the components of a WBP, a demonstration of the WBP tool’s key features, tips and tricks to build an effective WBP, and highlight recent updates to the tool. Any questions regarding the training can be directed to Meghan Selby at meghan.selby@mass.gov.

Additional Resources for How to Use the WBP

Completed Watershed-based Plans

Massachusetts DEP reviews and approves completed watershed based plans submitted through the WBP web application.  A copy of the watershed based plan review criteria is available from MassDEP Nonpoint Source Program staff. Following are approved plans associated with recent 319 projects.

Watershed-based Plan for Abbey Brook and Lower Chicopee River Watershed, Chicopee

Watershed-based Plan for Lake Mansfield, Great Barrington

How can I access the WBP?

The Massachusetts WBP web application is currently available at the link shown below. Contact Malcolm Harper, MassDEP 319 Program Manager, 508-767-2795, 8 New Bond Street, Worcester, MA 01606 for additional assistance.

Key Actions for How can I access the WBP?

Help Us Improve Mass.gov with your feedback