Public Water System Capacity Development

Information and resources to assist public water systems in improving their technical, financial, and managerial operations.

Public drinking water systems are vital to the health, safety, and economies of our communities.  We rely on them for disease protection, fire protection, basic sanitation, economic development, and to support our quality of life.  We should not take safe water for granted.  The people managing and operating our public drinking water systems face significant challenges as they try to provide their customers a sufficient amount of safe water.  Capacity Development supports the ability of systems to meet these challenges by improving their technical, financial and managerial operations.

Table of Contents

Certified Drinking Water Operators

Certified operators provide onsite management, operations or maintenance services to public water systems. They make sure that all systems meet the requirements of the Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations. And they maintain their certification and skills through continuing education programs.

Operators are certified (licensed) by the Board of Certification of Operators of Drinking Water Supply Facilities, which is overseen by the Division of Occupational Licensure within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Operators must pass an exam and meet educational and experience requirements prior to becoming licensed.

Additional Resources

Capacity Determinations

All public water systems receive a capacity determination (rating) by MassDEP.  New systems receive an initial determination and exiting systems may receive an updated determination based on an evaluation in response to sanitary survey results, a major water quality violation, change in ownership, application for a State Revolving Fund loan, or anytime deemed necessary by MassDEP.  The three capacity ratings are adequate, conditional, and inadequate.

Adequate Capacity

A system with adequate capacity:

  • Complies with all major DW regs and expected to comply well into future
  • Demonstrates willingness and ability to plan for the future, including capital improvement plans, emergency funds, enterprise accounting, employee training, and updated master plans
Conditional Capacity

A system with conditional capacity:

  • Complies with all MassDEP’s drinking water regulations but has issues that are being monitored and rectified.
  • Complies but may not have addressed a foreseeable major need that will have to be addressed within the next five years.
  • Not in compliance with drinking water regulations but has demonstrated good faith in remedying issues through an enforceable agreement such as an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) and remains in compliance with the enforcement order.
  • Not in compliance, but the deficiencies can and will be corrected within 12 months.
Inadequate Capacity

A system with inadequate capacity:

  • Out of compliance with drinking water regulations or cannot be expected to meet them in the future.
  • Does not plan ahead for future impacts (e.g., growth and aging infrastructure) which could greatly impair their ability to provide water that meets state and federal standards.
  • Substantial technical assistance is required in order to improve system performance.

Capacity Development Strategy

The MassDEP Capacity Development Strategy describes new and existing efforts to increase the technical, managerial, and financial (TMF) capacity of public water systems.  The overall goal of the capacity development strategy is to work with systems to prevent a lack of TMF capacity that could result in a violation of a drinking water standard, in poor drinking water quality, and/or in a public health emergency.

Capacity Development Reports

PWS Funding Resources

There are a variety of potential funding sources available to public water systems, including loans and grants.

Additional Resources

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program provides low-cost financing to help community public water suppliers comply with federal and state drinking water requirements.

The program's goals are to protect public health and strengthen compliance with drinking water requirements, while addressing the Commonwealth's drinking water needs, through affordability and proper watershed management priorities.


MassDEP along with its partner agencies and organizations offer trainings throughout the year. Certified operators need a certain amount of training hours to renew their licenses.

Asset Management

Asset management is an important component of capacity development. It helps systems to protect public health by properly identifying, maintaining, and replacing system components.

Additional Resources

System Resources

Documents and links to support the operations of a public water system.

Additional Resources

Contact   for Public Water System Capacity Development

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