Sustainable Water Resources

An Act Relative to Sustainable Water Resources (H.255/S.349, sponsored by Rep. Frank Smizik, Sen. James Eldridge) amends the Water Management Act to improve water flow and water levels for community water suppliers, fish, and other species and makes dam safety measures easier to implement.

Water is a valuable calling card for Massachusetts, giving the Commonwealth the competitive edge over other states. Rivers, lakes and aquifers provide clean drinking water for millions of residents and offer countless opportunities for recreation and tourism. In fact, rivers and their streams crisscross 11,000 miles around the state.

Despite getting four feet of rainfall annually, numerous communities face challenges meeting summer water demand and many rivers are running dry. Less water means increased water pollution, declining fisheries, and fewer recreational opportunities. We will squander our state’s advantage if we do not take steps today to sustain our water resources. In addition, climate change in New England is expected to bring more droughts interspersed with more intense storms. We need to better manage flows during dry periods and upgrade our water infrastructure so it can moderate these impacts.

The Sustainable Water Resources Act seeks to use the best available science to define how much water should be left in our rivers and streams to protect these invaluable resources, while meeting public health and safety needs.

Details

An Act Relative to Sustainable Water Resources would:

  • Ensure adequate water in our rivers and streams for people and wildlife. The bill establishes a process to develop science-based stream flow standards, ensuring that fisheries and other freshwater species are sustained while meeting water supply needs for public health and safety.
  • Encourage innovative and sustainable water solutions. Opt-in "water-banking" authorizes public water suppliers and DPWs to charge a reasonable fee for new water withdrawals or increased sewer use. Funds would be used for water resource improvements.  
  • Promote river restoration. The Act expands the options offered to dam owners by empowering the Office of Dam Safety to include dam removal as an option for dealing with obsolete dams. Currently, the office’s existing authority extends only to the repair of failing dams.