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Water Regulations

Water Management Act

Water Use Regulations

The Water Management Act became effective in March 1986 and authorizes the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to regulate the quantity of water withdrawn from both surface and groundwater supplies. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure adequate water supplies for current and future water needs. The Water Management Act (WMA) consists of a few key components, including a registration program and a permit program. MassDEP's Water Management Act Program offers resources for a more detailed understanding of the law. The Department of Environmental Protection is the state agency responsible for ensuring clean air and water, the safe management of toxics and hazards, the recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Water Management Act

Q: Do I need a permit from the State to take water from a river or well to irrigate my crops?

Perhaps. If you hit the threshold of using an average of 100,000 gallons per day for three consecutive months of the year or 9 million unregistered gallons over a three-month period, you need a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection. If you take the water without a permit you are in violation of the Water Management Act (WMA).

See the DEP's Permit Fact Sheet under Water Management Withdrawl Permits on the Water Management Act webpage.

Q. How do I know if I will withdraw that amount before I install a meter?

Many farmers know the irrigation rate required for particular crops. As a first step, calculate the worst case scenario using the assumption that no rain will fall and all irrigation will come from the source. One rule of thumb is to assume 0.5 inches will be used every 10 days. Distribute that rate over the acreage to be irrigated and determine the total volume withdrawn in 9 irrigation cycles. If you need further help, the regional Water Management Act program coordinator can help you or your consultant to get started. To find your local WMA program coordinator, their phone number and email, see the DEP's Water Resources Contacts page, under Water Management Act.

Q. If I have more than 1 farm, do I need more than 1 permit?

If you have more than one farm in a watershed (boundaries defined by the State based on surface water runoff), the withdrawals from all facilities are considered together for permitting purposes, so you only need one permit. However, determining whether you need a permit for multiple facilities is based on the total withdrawal from all facilities within the watershed. If you have more than one farm but they are in separate watersheds, the State will view each withdrawal individually for permitting purposes. In that case, each farm could withdraw up to 9 million gallons in a 3 month period and not need a permit. If you need further help, the regional Water Management Act program coordinator can help you or your consultant to get started. To find your local WMA program coordinator, their phone number and email, see the DEP's Water Resources Contacts page, under Water Management Act.

Q. How do I find out what watershed I am in?

There are 28 watersheds in the state and by reviewing this map, you can probably find yours. Under the map is a spreadsheet where you can locate your watershed address.

Q. How do I file for a permit?

The forms are available online from DEP – scroll down to BRP WM 03. Click on Instructions MSWord  or pdf for frequently asked questions. To find your local WMA program coordinator, their phone number and email, see the DEP's Water Resources Contacts page, under Water Management Act.

Q. What is a WMA registration?

Registrations were given in the early 1990's to existing withdrawers at the time the WMA was first implemented, e.g. municipal water departments. If you did not file for a registration by the time permitting was to occur in your watershed, you can no longer be approved for a registration.

Q. Are all permits effective for 20 years?

No. Each watershed has a permitting "cycle" of 20 years. All permits within a particular watershed expire on the same day. The longest a permit will be effective is 20 years. If you get a new permit, it will expire on the same day as all the others in your watershed. Be sure to inquire about the date. If you need further help, the regional Water Management Act program coordinator can help you or your consultant to get started. To find your local WMA program coordinator, their phone number and email, see the DEP's Water Resources Contacts page, under Water Management Act.

Q. Is there a fee for filing a permit application?

Yes. Currently (2013) the permit application fee is $3,340. See Wetlands and Waterways Forms on the Mass.gov website. As of 2013, the annual cost is $175 within a single river basin. If you need further help, the regional Water Management Act program coordinator can help you or your consultant to get started. To find your local WMA program coordinator, their phone number and email, see the DEP's Water Resources Contacts page, under Water Management Act.

Q. Whom can I talk to for more information about the Water Management Act?

If you need further help, the regional Water Management Act program coordinator can help you or your consultant to get started. To find your local WMA program coordinator, their phone number and email, see the DEP's Water Resources Contacts page, under Water Management Act.

Pesticides and Groundwater Protection Regulations, (Zone II)

Farmers using pesticides need to comply with Zone II regulations. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has the statutory responsibility to protect public drinking water supply wells from pesticide contamination. Pesticide applications in drinking water recharge areas are regulated by provisions outlined in the Groundwater Protection Regulations. These regulations apply to pesticide products on the Groundwater Protection List which refers to a list of pesticide active ingredients that could potentially impact groundwater. The use of pesticide products with active ingredients contained on the groundwater protection list in a drinking water recharge area is only allowed according to a Department-approved Pesticide Management Plan.

“Zone II” regulations

The term “Zone II” is used to designate a primary recharge area for an aquifer and is defined in the Groundwater Protection Regulations. Groundwater Protection Regulations regulate the application of specific pesticide products within primary recharge areas to  prevent contamination of public drinking water supply wells. A primary recharge area is either an “Interim Wellhead Protection Area” or a “Zone II”.

Pesticides on the Groundwater Protection list

The groundwater protection regulations apply only to pesticides that are on the Groundwater Protection List. See this list of pesticides maintained on the Department of Agricultural Resources website.

If the active ingredient of the pesticide you plan to use is on the Groundwater Protection list,  you (the applicator) must then establish if the pesticide will be applied  in a regulated primary recharge area.

How to find out if the area where you are applying the pesticide is within a regulated primary recharge area:  The pesticide groundwater protection regulations ONLY apply to public drinking water wells that pump greater than 100,000 gallons of water per day (gpd). The primary recharge area is designated as a Zone II or an Interim Wellhead Protection Area (IWPA) by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. To establish if you are in a regulated primary recharge area, you will need to visit this DEP web site page. This page generates a map which gives a good idea of the area of application relative to Zone IIs and IWPAS. In the right column, select the town to launch the map.

OR

1. Check with the local water department for a Source Water Assessment Plan (SWAP) map which will show all Zone IIs.
2. Check with the local Board of Health for the Title 5 maps which were updated in 2003
3. Check with the regional DEP office:
DEP Northeast Regional Office, Wilmington, 978-694-3200
DEP Western Regional Office, Springfield,  413-784-110
DEP Central Regional Office. Worcester,  508-792-7650
DEP Southeast Regional Office, Lakeville & Barnstable 508-946-2700

Notification procedure concerning a pesticide application within a designated Zone II area

In an effort to comply with the Groundwater Protection Regulations, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources has changed its notification procedures for use of chemicals on the Groundwater Protection List within primary recharge areas.

Applicators must now notify the Department on a calendar month basis of their use of pesticide products that are on the Groundwater Protection List. This notification must be made within ten days of the end of the calendar month of use. Notifications can be made electronically or by regular mail.

Information on Groundwater Protection Regulations

To learn more about the regulations and to ensure compliance with the groundwater protection regulations, see the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources website page on water quality and pesticides.

OR

Contact Lee Corte-Real, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources:
617-626-1776  lee.corte-real@state.ma.us.