Surface Water Protection: Protocol for Reviewing Projects Within the Watershed

Drinking water suppliers who have surface water supplies (reservoirs) need a way to review and comment on proposed activities and construction nearby

Project Awareness Protocol - Effective January 5, 2001

What Is The New Requirement?

Changes to the watershed protection section of the Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations, 310 CMR 22.20B, required that public surface water suppliers document by the end of calendar year 2001, on a MassDEP form, that they have established a protocol that provides them with the opportunity to review and comment on proposed new or expanded land uses or activities within the watershed. There is no requirement that they review every project.

Many suppliers already review proposals that may affect the watershed and recommend to local boards specific performance standards and protection measures. The purpose of this new requirement is to address the protection gaps that exist when suppliers do not participate in the review process and when local permitting authorities are not aware of the locations of drinking water sources or their Zones A, B & C. Although not a requirement, MassDEP recommends this process for ground water systems also.

The Best Way To Satisfy This Requirement Is To:

  • request, in writing, that local and regional boards and commissions place you on their list to be notified when new or expanding projects are proposed within your watershed (include a map of the watershed with your request);
  • assign an existing staff person to monitor public hearing notices of boards posted in Town Hall or published in local newspapers;
  • organize staff representatives of local boards to meet monthly to briefly discuss projects coming before them; or
  • own or control watershed.

What Should I Look For?

Proposed projects within your watersheds, especially within Zone A, that would disturb soils and vegetation, particularly on steep slopes; clear-cut forests; create large impermeable surfaces; store chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, road salting/sanding materials, hazardous materials; conduct sand & gravel excavations; create animal feeding or grazing areas, junkyards; land uses that are restricted or prohibited under the Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations, 310 CMR 22.20B; and other activities that have the potential to impact your drinking water sources.

MassDEP's "Sample Water Supply Protection Checklist" (January 2001) can help coordinate the local review of projects proposed in water supply protection areas.

What Should I Recommend?

  • keep undisturbed buffers
  • plant vegetated filter strips
  • cover sand, salt, manure, fertilizers
  • install stormwater controls
  • install erosion controls
  • phase project construction
  • no livestock or domestic animals within 100 ft. of reservoir or tributaries
  • compliance with local water supply protection control measures
  • secondary containment for chemicals
  • reduce impervious surfaces to < 15%
  • maintain catch basins regularly
  • manage animal wastes
  • other project specific protection measures

How Can I Comment On State Projects?

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), MGL Chapter 30, s. 61-62H, was enacted in 1977. The statute requires that all agencies of the Commonwealth determine the impact on the natural environment of all works, projects or activities conducted by them and use all practicable means to avoid or minimize any harm that has been identified. This information is submitted in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the Secretary of Environmental Affairs who oversees the review process. MEPA applies to state projects and large private projects that meet certain thresholds.

The Environmental Monitor, published twice a month, provides public notice of filings to the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs for Environmental Notification Forms (ENFs), EIRs and Notices of Project Change. Public water suppliers and others may submit comments on projects to the Secretary of Environmental Affairs during the review process. The Monitor is mailed, free of charge, to all persons who request a subscription in writing from the MEPA Office (MEPA Office, 251 Causeway St., Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114). It is also available on-line at

Where Can I Go For More Information?

Visit MassDEP's web site, or call the Drinking Water Program at 617-292-5770 to obtain documents such as MassDEP's "Stormwater Technical Handbook" (March 1997) which provides information about site planning and stormwater management techniques and New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC)'s "Source Protection - A National Guidance Manual for Surface Water Supplies" (2000).

"Best Management Practices to Protect Groundwater - Information for Small Businesses" (March 1999), Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). Contains recommendations for Best Management Practices (BMPs) and a BMP Groundwater Protection Checklist for Businesses (call DEP 617-292-5727 or PVPC 413-781-6045).

"On-Farm Strategies to Protect Water Quality" (December 1996), Mass. Department of Food and Agriculture, 617-626-1700.

For more information, contact Kathy Romero, Drinking Water Program, 617-292-5727.


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