WsPA Applications

Learn about the types of Watershed Protection Act applications.

There are several ways to communicate with DCR about projects on your property.  The Watershed Protection Act requires specific applications for a Determination of Applicability, Variance, and Exemption of a Tributary. Applications are available below or by contacting the appropriate Division of Water Supply Protection office.

Advisory Ruling

This type of application gives an informal indication of whether the WsPA applies to the proposed activity. To apply for an Advisory Ruling, send a letter to one of the DCR addresses and include:

  • Description of work proposed
  • Copy of the assessor's map (or sheet and parcel number)
  • Copy of the deed showing ownership
  • Copy of plans or surveys, if available
  • Other relevant information

An advisory ruling usually takes a few days to a few weeks, unless the project is complicated and warrants further review.

Determination of Applicability

This application is to determine whether WsPA applies to the proposed activity, or if the activity might be exempt or otherwise not prohibited. It yields a formal determination, with a 60-day time limit for an answer, which may be recorded at the local Registry of Deeds.


A landowner can apply for a Variance from the WsPA if a project does apply but they can demonstrate that the proposed activity will not impair water quality. There are specific timing components to a Variance application, including a public hearing.  Any proposal other than a single family house must file an Environmental Notification Form with the MEPA. Variance decisions are recorded at the registry of deeds.

Exemption of a Tributary

A landowner, state agency, or town can apply for this exemption if they believe a tributary, or portion of one, can be exempted from the WsPA regulations with no significant risk to water quality.

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