Where's Your Water Source?
Do You Know Where Your Water Comes From?
Although some people get water from a well located right in their yard, most people in Massachusetts get their water from a public water supply system. The largest of these is the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority system, which takes water from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs in central Massachusetts and delivers it to 45 communities, most of which are located in the greater Boston area. There are other, smaller regional water systems as well, but in many communities the water system is operated by the town.
Public water supplies, large or small, tend to disrupt the natural hydrology of watersheds. Water is taken out of a river, a reservoir, or a well in one location, and then distributed over a wide area. After the water is used, it is seldom treated and returned to where it came from. Even in the rare instances where treated wastewater is returned to a point near its original source, any water used for lawn irrigation is lost along the way. As a result of this movement of water around and across watersheds, stream flows are often reduced, sometimes dramatically.
Knowing where your water comes from, and where it goes, is important in understanding the effect water use has on rivers and streams in your area. Even if your community gets its water supply from wells, it is important to recognize that wells are typically located adjacent to rivers, streams, or wetlands. Wells adjacent to rivers and streams can intercept groundwater that would otherwise provide flow. In some cases, such as in the Ipswich River watershed, municipal water supply wells intercept such large volumes of water that large portions of some rivers can dry up during summer, when river flows are typically low, and water use is high.
If we are to protect and preserve our rivers and streams, we need to keep water local. That is, we need to try to get our water from local sources, use it efficiently, and return as much treated wastewater as possible to a point near the original source.