Water Resource Protection & Infrastructure
The 495 Region has substantial water resources, however, the costs of maintaining and improving the existing water supply and associated sewer and stormwater infrastructure are outstripping available sources of funding. There are also challenges in protecting water quality and ensuring sufficient quantities for all needs including residents, businesses, agriculture, recreation, and fish and wildlife.
By concentrating growth and development around existing infrastructure, and building in more sustainable ways through use of Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development, both the region’s economy and environment will benefit while controlling costs. Compact and well-sited development and infrastructure also reduce the consumption of land, energy, and water, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the vulnerability of property and infrastructure to flood damage.
- agencies and programs providing data, analysis, policies, regulations, grants, and other resources for water resource management and protection, including a Sustainable Water Management Initiative.
- The 495/MetroWest Partnership and MAPC, through the 495/MetroWest Water Resources Strategy, have produced several studies and guides:
- USGS Study. USGS report on Simulated Effects of Year 2030 Water-Use and Land-Use Changes on Streamflow near the Interstate-495 Corridor, Assabet and Upper Charles River Basins, Eastern Massachusetts provides hydrological modeling of the interactions between land use and water resources in the region.
- WaterSmart Indicators provides a snapshot of the region’s impact on water resources and a selection of tools that communities can use to improve water resource management and recommendations for further action.
- SummerSmart Water Use. This guide describes strategies that water suppliers, municipal officials, and citizens can use to reduce peak water demand, including water use regulation, conservation pricing, and public education. Case studies include Acton, Wayland, Concord, and other communities.
- Once Is Not Enough Guide to Water Reuse. Highly treated wastewater provides an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient water source for growing communities and alternative options for wastewater disposal. This guide details potential applications of treated wastewater, case studies, cost considerations, and recommendations for increasing water reuse.
Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Federal funding to finance high priority infrastructure projects needed to ensure clean water and safe drinking water.
Recommendations for bridging the $21.4 billion gap in water infrastructure finance needs over the next 20 years: a presentation by Martin Pillsbury, Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
- Stormwater utilities. Like other public utilities, stormwater utilities charge community members for services provided by local government – in this case, managing stormwater generated from impervious surfaces. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission issued this guide to establishing a stormwater utility to operate and maintain stormwater management infrastructure.
- Legislative Commission on Water Infrastructure Financing: The Water Infrastructure Finance Commission (WIFC) was established by the Legislature in 2009 to develop a comprehensive, long range water infrastructure finance plan for the Commonwealth and its municipalities. The WIFC identified nearly $40 billion gap between water infrastructure maintenance and expansion needs and available funding over the next 20 years statewide, and recommended potential means for closing this gap.
- Massachusetts Infrastructure Investment Coalition tracks infrastructure investment needs including dams, water supply, and wastewater.
- Impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots produce stormwater runoff that is the main source of water pollution. Impervious surfaces also reduce water infiltration, contributing to flooding and preventing recharge of groundwater that feeds aquifers and streams.
- Low Impact Development (LID) is an approach to development or redevelopment that reduces the impact of built areas and promotes the natural movement of water within a watershed while filtering stormwater through plants and soils.
Low Impact Development Toolkits by the 495/MetroWest Partnership and MAPC provides a series of detailed fact sheets on LID techniques, including design, technical, cost, and regulatory issues.
Worcester and other communities are installing rain gardens to reduce polluted stormwater runoff, help improve waterways, and enhance landscaping.
- UNH Stormwater Center has extensive resources that are helpful in addressing stormwater and adopting LID, including case studies with data on cost-effective LID and retrofitting redevelopment.
- Other sources of information, model regulations, and case studies on stormwater and LID include the Department of Environmental Protection, EPA, Massachusetts Statewide Stormwater Seminar Series, Massachusetts Watershed Coalition, watershed associations, and Mass Audubon.
Natural systems provide functions such as water supply, flood control, water filtration, and temperature moderation. Protection of this “Green Infrastructure” can reduce costs of “Grey Infrastructure” like water treatment systems, while also providing amenities like parks, greenways and trails.
- Green Infrastructure Toolkit. This interactive guide was developed for the 495/MetroWest Partnership by UMass-Amherst’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. It addresses 5 elements of green infrastructure: Stormwater Quantity and Quality, Habitat and Ecosystem Protection, Multi-Modal Transportation, Energy Efficiency and Conservation, and Waste Management.
- Communities can protect Green Infrastructure through local zoning and design regulations such as Open Space Residential Design, water supply protection bylaws, wetlands and floodplain bylaws, and similar measures.
Improving Water Infrastructure
Undersized and structurally deficient culverts block fish passage and increase risks of flooding and road wash-outs.
Restoration of waterways and bordering areas can improve water quality and fisheries, provide parks and greenways, and reduce flood hazards.
- Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration provides technical assistance and links to funding sources for removal of obsolete dams and other aquatic restoration projects.
- The Stream Continuity project and the Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) at UMass provide models for identifying and prioritizing more than 30,000 culverts statewide that block fish movements and present flood damage hazards that could be improved when roads are reconstructed.
- Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI)
- Department of Environmental Protection
- Massachusetts Water Conservation Standards
- Protecting Water Resources with Smart Growth (EPA)
- 495 Low Impact Development Toolkit
- EPA Green Infrastructure resources
- Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration
- Massachusetts Water Works Association
- New England Water Works Association
- Massachusetts Municipal Association
- Water Resources Coalition
- Watershed Associations: Blackstone, Charles, Concord, Merrimack, OARS (Assabet, Concord and Sudbury), Nashua, Neponset, Taunton, and Ten Mile.
495/MetroWest Development Compact
The Patrick-Murray Administration through Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development partnered with Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the MetroWest Regional Collaborative, the 495/MetroWest Partnership, and Mass Audubon to engage the region in the preparation of a comprehensive land use and development plan.