Sustainability: Working to Protect Water at the Policy Level
Regional issues surrounding water supply, flows in rivers, climate change, and water monitoring trends are important to the future health of our watershed. Along with our hands-on project work, the NRWA knows that it is important to participate in the setting of water policy, to ensure that a sustainable approach to water management is implemented at the state level. NRWA collaborates with state agencies, other environmental organizations and policy groups to stay informed and provide input into pertinent policy and regulatory issues.
- NRWA is a member of The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. The Alliance’s mission is to protect and restore rivers across the Commonwealth. Involvement with the Alliance is an opportunity to share ideas, concerns, and information about issues affecting rivers. NRWA has been attending meetings organized by the Alliance focused on how to improve flow protection, through the Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI). SWMI is a multi-stakeholder approach to determining how Massachusetts will allocate water withdrawals in the future. The NRWA is also a member of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
- NRWA participates in the Water Supply Citizen Advisory Committee (WSCAC) meetings on water supply and protection in relation to Wachusett Reservoir. The reservoir, the second largest in Massachusetts, was formed when the South Nashua River was dammed early in the 20th century. Water from the Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs supply 2.5 million people with water in 61 communities in the Greater Boston area. WSCAC was formed to advise the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) on water resource policy decisions affecting that water supply. NRWA has been advocating for a more naturalized flow to the South Nashua River. The river receives between 3 million gallons per day, the legislatively mandated minimum, and over 100 million gallons per day, depending on the MWRA’s water supply and management requirements. These flows can vary dramatically from day to day and interfere with the development of a natural river ecosystem. Setting an adequate baseline release and moderating increases will improve the habitat for fish and other wildlife along the South Nashua River. NRWA has advocated for a higher minimum flow and a stepped up and stepped down flow management to minimize impacts. NRWA believes that a scientific study of the flow impacts and management requirements would help to clarify what would be optimal for the ecology of the river.
- One of NRWA’s staff is a member of the NH Rivers Management Advisory Committee (RMAC). The members of the RMAC are appointed by the Governor and Executive Council for three-year terms. The RMAC assists the NH Department of Environmental Services in administering the Rivers Management and Protection Program. Another important responsibility of the RMAC is to advise the Department on the adoption of rules for the protection of instream flow. The RMAC is also responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on plans to dispose of State-owned property along rivers or providing access to them.
- The NRWA’s Executive Director serves as Vice Chair of the Safe Drinking Water Act Assessment Advisory Committee. The eleven members of the Committee are appointed by the Commissioner of the MA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and include six public water suppliers. In Massachusetts, there are 1,712 public water systems providing clean water to 6.3 million people. The Safe Drinking Water Act Assessment provides funding that helps the DEP’s Drinking Water Program to maintain primacy to implement the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Our staff attend professional conferences such as “River Monitoring for Climate Change” presented by the MA Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (formerly, the Riverways Program), and the Central Mass DEP SMART Volunteer Monitoring Summit, held annually. Summit topics have included climate change, monitoring, and river classification. To learn more about water and climate change issues, visit the state sites for Massachusetts and New Hampshire.