People move water around in ways nature does not. A primary example of this in Massachusetts is the water and wastewater systems of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Within this system, an average of 230 million gallons of water is transported east from the watersheds of central Massachusetts each day to serve the needs of Boston and nearby suburban communities. After this water is used, much of the wastewater created is collected, treated, and discharged into Boston Harbor, far away from where it originated. The water that flows east from central Massachusetts is not returned to maintain flows in the rivers of the watersheds where it originated.
This pattern is repeated on a smaller scale in numerous locations across the Commonwealth. Regional water and sewer districts, and even individual communities, frequently transfer water from one watershed to another. This pattern can cause major reductions in flow, particularly in summer, when large volumes of water are removed from a watershed and not returned after use. See the section below for information on The Interbasin Transfer Act.
The Massachusetts Interbasin Transfer Act
This Act regulates the transfer of water and wastewater between the major river basins or watersheds of Massachusetts. The Act is implemented by the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission (WRC) with technical assistance from the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Office of Water Resources.
With some exceptions, proposed new interbasin transfers of water or wastewater must be reviewed and approved by the WRC. Proposed transfers of less that one million gallons per day may be deemed insignificant if they meet certain criteria. Proposed transfers of one million gallons per day or greater must undergo full WRC review.
The goal of the Interbasin Transfer Act is to maintain instream flow and protect existing uses in donor basins and to encourage the use of local water supplies. Communities seeking approval for an interbasin transfer must meet performance standards recently adopted by the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission (WRC).
For more information view the Interbasin Transfer Act section of our Resources page.