DCR Watershed Research Permits

Find the requirements and application process to obtain a scientific research permit on DCR Division of Water Supply Protection's Office of Watershed Management property.
Quabbin Reservoir from the air

Scientific research is a valuable and necessary component of an effective watershed management program.  DCR Division of Water Supply Protection (DWSP) controls more than 100,000 acres of land to protect the drinking water supply for over 3 million people from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs; this vast area provides unique research opportunities. DCR cooperates with academic institutions, federal and state agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that propose appropriate studies on DWSP property. DCR coordinates and supervises these scientific research projects to assure compliance with DWSP regulations and policies which safeguard the water supply system.  

The Prescott Peninsula at Quabbin Reservoir was originally set aside as a research area and is closed to general public access.  Researchers are encouraged to conduct studies in this area if practical (MA Chapter 737 of Acts of 1972, "Kelly Wetmore Act").

All potential researchers requesting to use DWSP lands or waters for academic or state/federal research must first submit a research proposal for DWSP staff review.

Plot center on DCR DWSP land

Table of Contents

Watershed Research Proposal Application

Pitfall trap on DCR Watershed land


Click here to submit or renew an application for a DCR Watershed Research Permit.   

The application process requires a research proposal.  See instructions below.

All permits will be issued as annual permits, but individual projects can be issued renewals for more than one year. DWSP would also like to receive copies of interim and final reports, including theses or dissertations, research manuscripts, journal articles, etc., when available.

Following a review by DWSP staff, final approval or rejection of the proposal will be issued by the appropriate Regional Director.  Review of any proposal may require a site visit with the applicant in order to clarify potential impacts associated with the proposed project. DWSP approved research projects will be subject to both on-going conditions monitored by staff and an annual review of research findings.

NOTE: It is the researcher’s responsibility to notify DWSP of project completion. Upon termination of a project, it is the researcher’s responsibility to immediately return any items belonging to DCR, remove all research apparatus (including flagging or other markers), and restore study sites as much as possible to their original condition.

Measuring a tree's width

Research Project Application Instructions

Any Research must be performed in conjunction with a recognized academic institution, state/federal agency, or NGO.

  • The Research Application must include a research proposal and be filled out in its entirety.  In your proposal please include:
  1. The goals/objectives of your research.
  2. How your research is of value to the Division of Water Supply Protection.
  3. Methods of study. Please note any changes to vegetation, if applicable.
  4. Descriptions/photos of equipment, including the specific locations (all equipment left in the field must be labeled with research permit #).
  5. Map showing specific areas or habitat types.
  6. Specify Final/Annual Report or product that will be submitted to DWSP.
  • Researchers must identify the specific areas where research is proposed. Prescott Peninsula has historically been set aside for research purposes. Other areas identified must have a specific justification for the location.
  • The researcher must identify a start and end date in the calendar year of the proposed research.  Please note that all permits will expire annually, however proposals for longer periods of time can file for a permit renewal annually.
  • All equipment proposed to be left on site during research must be labeled with the researcher’s identity and permit #.
  • Access will be restricted during inclement weather (generally December – April).  Therefore, permits will expire on November 30 (unless specifically allowed to continue)
  • Researchers will be required to return access keys on November 30, to be re-issued with a renewal permit.
  • Most DWSP land is gated and locked; if needed, your keys will be issued to you at either the Quabbin Visitor Center in Belchertown (Quabbin/Ware) or the Wachusett Regional Headquarters in West Boylston (Wachusett/Sudbury).  All keys must be returned by December 15 - even if you plan to renew your permit.  Keys will be reissued annually when you renew your permit.
  • Vehicle permits will also be issued along with your key(s).  Your permit tag must be displayed in your vehicle at all times while on DWSP property. 

Click here for a DCR DWSP Research Permit Proposal Example.

Example of map used in DCR DWSP Research Report

Annual Report

Researchers are required to submit an Annual Report.  The Annual Report should list any research activity completed during the dates of the proposal and key findings from the year's research.  The Annual Report should include any research summary reports or publications that were a result of the work.  Permits will not be renewed until DWSP receives the Annual Report is received. 

Click here for a DCR DWSP Watershed Research Annual Report Example.



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