Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint source pollution comes from rain or melting snow moving over the ground. Learn what you can do to help prevent it.

MassDEP uses the federal Clean Water Act to define nonpoint source pollution and recommend ways to control it. Under the provisions of the Clean Water Act, MassDEP has developed the Nonpoint Source Management Program Plan, an integrated strategy for preventing, controlling, and reducing nonpoint source pollution in the Commonwealth.

Table of Contents

About nonpoint source pollution

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution comes from rainfall or melting snow moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants and eventually deposits them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. These pollutants may come from:

  • Fertilizers and herbicides
  • Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff
  • Construction sediment
  • Streambank erosion
  • Irrigation runoff
  • Bacteria and nutrients from animal wastes
  • Atmospheric deposition, commonly called "acid rain".

Additional Resources

Tools for managing nonpoint source pollution

  • MassDEP has developed a statewide Watershed-Based Plan to organize information about our state's waters and present it in a format that will promote the development of beneficial projects. 
  • The Massachusetts Clean Water Toolkit is an interactive guide for the prevention and control of NPS pollution. 
  • Under Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act, MassDEP administers a grant program to fund projects that help prevent and control NPS pollution. 

Additional Resources

Education in pollution prevention

MassDEP offers guides providing suggestions for what citizens can do to help prevent nonpoint source pollution. 

Additional Resources

Regulations & Guidance


314 CMR 2.00: Permit Procedures for Wastewater Discharge, Sewer Permits, and Reclaimed Water
Procedures for applying for surface water and groundwater discharge permits, sewer permits, and reclaimed-water-use permits.

314 CMR 4.00: Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards
Identifying and ensuring minimum standards for surface water quality in Massachusetts, in accordance with the Federal Clean Water Act.

314 CMR 9.00: Water Quality Certification
Ensuring that dredging operations and material comply with the requirements of the Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards and the federal Clean Water Act.


Complete Erosion and Sedimentation Control Guidelines: a Guide for Planners, Designers, and Municipal Officials
Best management practices for controlling erosion and sediment buildup.

Emergency Repairs to Structures, Roads, and Facilities Located in Wetland Resource Areas or Buffer Zones, and Waterways
Guidance for homeowners and local officials on authorizing emergency work in the event of a sudden or unforeseen emergency.

The Massachusetts Stormwater Handbook
This handbook describes how to follow the regulations governing stormwater management.

Snow Disposal Guidance
MassDEP guidelines for government agencies and private businesses to use in selecting, preparing, and maintaining snow disposal sites.

Unpaved Roads BMP Manual
Maintaining unpaved roads to prevent stormwater runoff and other water-quality problems.

Water Resource Management Planning Guidance Document
This guidance is intended to explain the types of water management planning reports towns and communities can use when approaching their particular wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater issues. 



Program Manager 781-223-5169
319 Grants 508-767-2795
604b Grants 508-767-2893
NPS Outreach 617-512-3429


Padmini Das, Program Manager
Malcolm Harper, 319 Grants Coordinator
Meghan Selby, 604b Grants Coordinator
Judith Rondeau, NPS Outreach Coordinator

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