In late July, the MMA provided comments on the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed regulatory changes under the Massachusetts Water Management Act.

The MassDEP’s proposed changes to the Water Resources Management Program regulations (310 CMR 36.00) are promulgated under the Water Management Act (M.G.L. Ch. 21G), which regulates water withdrawals through registrations and permits to ensure an appropriate balance among competing water needs and the preservation of natural resources.

The proposed regulatory changes would add a new condition to registrations that would restrict nonessential outdoor water use during times of drought declared by the secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Nonessential outdoor water use includes lawn watering, filling swimming pools, washing cars by means of a hose, and washing down buildings, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks.

According to the MassDEP, the change would better align local water use during times of drought with the statewide Massachusetts Drought Management Plan (updated in 2019). It would also “help ensure adequate water to assure public health and safety and continued economic stability when water supplies are stressed by drought, and an appropriate balance among competing water uses and natural resources such as streamflow, wetlands, fisheries and wildlife habitat during drought.”

The MMA formulated its comments after attending virtual public hearings on the proposed regulatory change, convening a special meeting of two MMA policy committees — Energy and the Environment and Public Works, Transportation and Utilities — and engaging in discussion with a range of stakeholders.

“We are aware that there is a broad and diverse range of opinion on the proposed changes,” the MMA wrote. “Many local officials are supportive of state intervention due to their desire for communities in affected regions to respond to drought conditions in a coordinated manner and in a meaningful way to confront one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time; many have concerns and reservations due to the lack of flexibility or enforceability of a state-imposed mandate; and many are opposed to the draft due to concerns that a one-size-fits all approach will disadvantage communities that are able to manage their water supplies on their own in an environmentally sound manner. All local officials are united in their commitment to preserve and protect the natural water resources of our Commonwealth.”

The MassDEP intends to promulgate final regulations in the next few months. The MassDEP has posted the text of the proposed revisions to the regulations and more information about the public process.

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