Massachusetts Launches a Sustainable Water Management Initiative

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently announced its Sustainable Water Man+gement Initiative (SWMI).  The SWMI was created in 2010 by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and included a wide range of stakeholders and support from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.  Massachusetts launched the new SWMI plan to better protect the Commonwealth’s water resources by encouraging prudent use of water to balance the need for water consumption and increased economic development with the ecological health of the water body.  The SWMI Framework includes:

  • Biological Categories:  a categorization of the current condition of Massachusetts’ sub-basins as affected by certain human alterations.
  • Safe Yield:  an element of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Water Management Act permitting that limits the amount of water that can be withdrawn during drought conditions; it includes an environmental protection factor and is linked to streamflow criteria.
  • Science-based Streamflow Criteria: permitting criteria that protect ecological uses of the state’s waterways and fish and wildlife by specifying flow alteration goals and corresponding mitigation requirements when water withdrawals conflict with these goals.
  • Clear permitting pathway: Permitting categories, or “Tiers,” that describe proposed requirements associated with seeking a water withdrawal permit and generally require mitigation commensurate with impact if the withdrawal amount is significantly increased, or minimization, if it occurs in an impaired basin.

The state’s next step is to complete an on-going pilot project where they’ll “test drive” the Framework with 4 public water suppliers.  The results of the pilot will be used to inform a regulation development process and to prepare for implementing the Framework in permits. The regulations are expected to be finalized by the end of 2013.  Please go to to check out the Framework and supporting documentation. Also attached is the press release for this initiative.