Water Resources

Technical Support for Meeting the Revised Massachusetts Water Management Act

Despite 44 inches of precipitation in an average year, Massachusetts’ rivers and streams experience low-flow and no flow events from water withdrawals, paved surfaces, and other impacts as described in the Sustainable Water Management Initiative Framework.

In 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts released revisions to the Water Management Act (WMA) regulations (MGL 21 G, 310 CMR 36.00). The revised regulations, which apply to surface and groundwater withdrawal permits, seek to balance protecting the health of water bodies with meeting the needs of communities for water by implementing sustainable water management.

“Working with Abt Associates to tease out exactly how the SWMI regulations will impact our town was a really enlightening process”

Corey Godfrey
     Environmental Analyst, Littleton Water Department
These regulatory changes affect planning decisions by cities and towns on how best to meet current and future water needs. For example, under the WMA, in subbasins designated by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) as net groundwater depleted in August, permittees have to minimize “existing impacts to the greatest extent feasible.” Permittees requesting withdrawals above the MassDEP allocated baseline will have to mitigate the additional withdrawals “commensurate with impact.”

Abt Associates has been assisting public water suppliers with identifying cost-effective strategies to meet projected water demand and environmental water needs as required by the WMA regulations. Below are project summaries, reports and tools that Abt Associates developed in supporting Massachusetts towns. For additional information and questions about Abt Associates’ planning support to city and town water departments, please contact Viki Zoltay at Abt Associates.

These projects were funded in part by MassDEP under Sustainable Water Management Initiative Grants. The contents do not necessarily reflect the view and policies of MassDEP, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Littleton, Mass.

Maximizing Sustainable Water Management by Minimizing the Cost of Meeting Human and Ecological Water Needs, 2014
Abt, in collaboration with the Littleton Water Department (LWD), Charles River Watershed Association and Horsley Witten Group, conducted a planning study to determine the least-cost combination of management actions that will meet Littleton’s current and projected water needs and the WMA’s minimization and mitigation requirements to protect streamflow and ecological health. We used EPA’s Watershed Management Optimization Support Tool (WMOST)  to screen potential actions and to identify the most cost-effective combinations of actions for meeting the stated management goals.

“Working with Abt Associates to tease out exactly how the SWMI regulations will impact our town was a really enlightening process,” said Corey Godfrey, an Environmental Analyst at Littleton Electric Light & Water Department. “We ran through various scenarios to determine the potential costs, water savings, and revenue impacts of different combinations of minimization and mitigation actions that will allow us to meet the state’s requirements,” Godfrey said. “We now have an overall strategy for conserving water while maintaining revenue and a menu of options to choose from when we submit our WMA renewal application.”


A Path from Screening Analysis to Permit Conditions – Methods, Tools and Solutions, 2015
Following the recommendations of the 2014 planning study, Abt, in partnership with Littleton Water Department, conducted analyses to develop water conservation strategies. LWD conducted a water audit and leak detection survey to develop water loss control strategies. Abt Associates assisted LWD in conducting a customer water use survey and analyzed water consumption data across customer types to develop a water conservation/water efficiency strategy.


Westborough, Mass.

Permit Renewal Planning for Westborough: Integrated Assessment and Basin-Wide Training, 2015
Abt, in partnership with the Town of Westborough’s Public Works Department and OARS, the watershed organization for the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord Rivers, evaluated a range of cost-effective strategies for Westborough to meet projected 20-year water demand and environmental water needs as required in the revised WMA Regulations.

As part of the project, we also provided training to other public water suppliers in the Concord watershed. Participants learned about the revised requirements and publicly available decision-support tools to assist them in developing their permit renewal applications.


Wrentham, Mass.

Enabling Permittees to Prepare Cost-Effective Strategies: Support to the Town of Wrentham and Reusable Tools, 2015
Abt Associates, in partnership with the Town of Wrentham and the Charles River Watershed Association, assessed cost-effective options for Wrentham to meet projected 20-year water demand and environmental water needs as required in the revised WMA Regulations. As part of the project, we developed two Excel-based tools to assist with the analyses – Stormwater credit and cost calculator and Water efficiency calculator (please request these files via this contact form).


Southwick and West Springfield, Mass.

Planning for Future Water Needs and Meeting Regulatory Standards, 2016
The Towns of Southwick and West Springfield derive the majority of their water supply from the same source subbasin – Great Brook Subbasin, or subbasin 19078. This subbasin is highly impacted by groundwater withdrawals. It is also a coldwater fish resource which is provided special protection under the revised WMA regulations.

Abt Associates and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission worked with both towns to assess current conditions, projected water needs and applicable regulations. We evaluated numerous actions for cost-effectiveness for meeting the regulations and determined that documenting completed projects that qualify for credit, implementing an aggressive water conservation program and timed, surface releases from Congamond Lakes were top activities for meeting requirements. In addition West Springfield may consider a rate study for full cost pricing and as an incentive for water conservation as well as an aggressive program to reduce unaccounted-for-water. We also implemented a survey of water users in both towns to determine the most effective measures for water conservation. Based on the survey we designed a water conservation program with specific actions and targets as well as educational materials to support the program’s implementation and uptake.

Tools