Nine-Element Watershed-Based Plans Information

Nine-element watershed-based plans (WBPs) address water quality problems in impaired waters and protect water quality in healthy waters.

The Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Section in MassDEP’s Watershed Planning Program reviews submitted nine-element WBPs to determine if specific WBPs are acceptable. MassDEP-accepted nine-element WBPs are required for implementation projects to be eligible for Clean Water Act (CWA) section (§) 319 NPS implementation funds that are administered by the NPS Management Section in the Watershed Planning Program. Nine-element WBPs organize information about watershed conditions to provide a framework for restoring and protecting the waters of the Commonwealth. Please note that a nine-element WBP is not the same as a Watershed Management Plan, which supports a Watershed Permit. For more information on a Watershed Management Plan and Watershed Permitting, please see the Watershed Permit Regulations page.

Table of Contents

Purpose & Need

The purpose of a Massachusetts nine-element WBP is to organize information about Massachusetts watersheds in a format that will enhance the development and implementation of projects that will restore or protect water quality and beneficial uses in the Commonwealth. WBPs must follow EPA's recommended nine-element or alternative WBP formats. MassDEP-accepted nine-element WBPs are required for implementation projects to be eligible for Clean Water Act (CWA) section (§) 319 nonpoint source (NPS) implementation funds.

Municipalities that have approved Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plans (CWMPs) or Targeted Water Resources Management Plans (TWMPs) may meet the nine-element WBP and qualify for CWA §319 NPS implementation funds.  Due to the varied time frames in which CWMPs/TWMPs have been developed and approved, it would be necessary for MassDEP to review the CWMPs/TWMPs to determine if they meet the nine-element WBP criteria to qualify for funding. MassDEP encourages applicants to submit approved CWMPs/TWMPs to both the 604(b) Grant Coordinator and NPS Outreach Coordinator in MassDEP’s Watershed Planning Program to determine whether they qualify as nine-element WBPs.  MassDEP encourages municipalities to review their CWMPs/TWMPs and add an addendum depicting the page number(s) of each of the nine elements in the CWMP/TWMP, then submit to MassDEP’s NPS Management Section ( or for review. The nine EPA-required WBP elements are listed below.


EPA guidelines promote the use of CWA §319 funding for implementing WBPs. These WBPs are required for all projects implemented with §319 funds, 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 WBPs to restore waters impaired by NPS pollution.

The nine elements of a WBP as described and 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 an NPS total maximum daily load (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

The Massachusetts WBP Tool

MassDEP developed the WBP Tool to assist watershed managers, municipalities, watershed organizations and others with the development of WBPs. The WBP Tool provides an online template that guides users through the development of the components of a WBP. The WBP Tool integrates many MassDEP resources such as land use/land cover, the Massachusetts Integrated List of Waters (ILW), and TMDLs. The WBP Tool also incorporates a land use-based pollutant loading model to estimate pollutant loads and load reductions expected based on proposed best management practices (BMPs).

Information Sources

Several fundamental resource documents informed the WBP Tool development. Specific resources that are used for each basin are listed in the technical memorandum for the basin. In general, the reference documents include:

In many cases, additional information was available but not directly cited because it was already incorporated into the basic resource documents. Data not supported by a MassDEP and EPA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan were not 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 Tool

The WBP Tool will help to identify known and likely causes and sources of NPS pollution in a specific watershed or watersheds of interest. It will also help to prioritize the NPS problems, identify appropriate BMPs and watershed-based strategies for addressing the problems, and develop winning proposals to fund the work using CWA §319 NPS Competitive Grant funds or similar programs. The WBP Tool provides prompts and examples to help users develop WBPs.

MassDEP sponsored a three-hour WBP Tool workshop in 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 presentation developed for the meeting and a video recording of the overview are provided below.

MassDEP additionally sponsored a two-hour WBP Tool workshop in 2022, 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 highlights of recent updates to the tool. Any questions regarding the training can be directed to Meghan Selby (, the 604(b) Grant Coordinator in the Nonpoint Source Management Section, Watershed Planning Program, at MassDEP.

MassDEP has also developed WBP Review Documents that are provided below.

  • WBP Provisional Review Checklist – The purpose of this form is to determine whether Watershed Based Plans (WBPs) submitted to MassDEP for review address the EPA-required nine WBP elements. Provisionally Accepted WBPs include all EPA required elements but have not been formally reviewed and accepted by MassDEP.
  • WBP Review Criteria – The purpose of this form is to support technically consistent MassDEP review and scoring of “Provisionally Accepted” WBPs and to provide constructive feedback to project partners on how WBPs may be corrected or improved.

Additional Resources

How can I access the WBP Tool?

The Massachusetts WBP Tool is available online at the link shown below. For additional assistance, contact staff in the Nonpoint Source Management Section, Watershed Planning Program, at MassDEP: Judy Rondeau (, NPS Outreach Coordinator, or Meghan Selby (, 604(b) Grant Coordinator.

MassDEP-Accepted Nine-Element Watershed-based Plans

MassDEP reviews and accepts completed Nine-Element WBPs. MassDEP-accepted WBPs are linked below. WBPs completed through the WBP Tool can also be accessed through the WBP Tool (see the link to the website below).

MassDEP-accepted WBPs (as of 9/25/2023).
MassDEP-accepted WBPs (as of 9/25/2023).

MassDEP-Accepted Nine-Element Watershed-Based Plans. Click on the WBP name to view and download a copy of the Plan.

Major Basin Watershed AU ID Town Accepted Date
Chicopee Abbey Brook/Lower Chicopee River MA36-40,
Chicopee 2/18/2020
Housatonic Bartholomew's Cobble   Sheffield 8/25/2020
Neponset Beaver Meadow Brook MA73-20 Stoughton 4/17/2020
Blackstone Blackstone River MA 51-03 Millbury 4/12/2019
Deerfield East Branch North River MA33-19 Colrain 9/7/2021
Concord (SuAsCo) Farm Pond MA82035 Framingham 7/10/2020
Connecticut Fort River MA34-27 Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Pelham, and Shutesbury 3/5/2021
Shawsheen Fosters Pond MA83005 Andover, Wilmington 7/11/2018
Quinebaug Hamilton Reservoir MA41019 Holland 4/23/2021
Deerfield Hinsdale Brook MA33-21 Colrain, Shelburne 8/24/2023
Merrimack Lake Attitash MA84002 Amesbury 7/29/2020
Concord (SuAsCo) Lake Cochituate MA82020,
Natick, Wayland, Framingham 7/11/2018
Housatonic Lake Garfield MA21040 Monterey 11/22/2022
Mystic Malden River MA71-05 Malden 9/30/2022
Blackstone Manchaug Pond MA51091 Sutton 4/28/2021
Housatonic Mansfield Pond MA21065 Great Barrington 1/31/2019
Connecticut Mill River MA34-25 Hadley, Amherst, Leverett, Sunderland and Shutesbury 4/23/2021
Charles Mill River in Franklin MA72-15 Franklin 5/1/2019
Weymouth-Weir Monatiquot River MA74-08 Braintree 10/3/2022
Westfield Moose Meadow Brook MA32-40,
Montgomery, Westfield 6/15/2021
Cape Cod Namskaket Creek/Little Namskaket Creek MA96-26,
Brewster 4/1/2019
Narragansett Palmer River MA53-22 Rehoboth 8/10/2020
Neponset Pequit Brook and Beaver Meadow Brook MA73-22,
Canton 3/14/2019
Neponset Pine Tree Brook/ Turners Pond MA73-29 Milton 7/31/2020
Blackstone Pratt Pond MA51123 Upton 6/1/2017
Chicopee Quaboag - Quacumquasit Ponds MA36130,
Sturbridge, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Spencer, Charlton, North Brookfield, New Braintree, Leicester, Oakham, Rutland, and Paxton 10/25/2022
Cape Cod Santuit Pond MA96277 Mashpee 5/1/2023
Chicopee Sevenmile River MA36-12 Spencer 3/4/2020
Boston Harbor Town of Milton (Neponset & Weymouth-Weir)   Milton 3/9/2023
Taunton Trout Brook MA62-07 Avon 2/18/2020
Mystic Upper Mystic River MA71-02 Winchester, Woburn 7/29/2020
Concord (SuAsCo) Waushakum Pond MA82112 Framingham 2/1/2023
Taunton West Monponsett Pond MA62119 Halifax 6/15/2020
Buzzards Bay Westport River MA95-54 Westport 6/9/2022

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