New Water Rules in MA
New rules for public water use could mean increased cost for users, as well as protection for wildlife and of the the longterm health of waterways. Water supplies in western Massachusetts are thought to be under less pressure than those in the eastern part of the state, but conservation remains a concern. After a dry summer this year, the town of Amherst was forced to dip into its supplies of well water in order to have enough to go around once the UMass was back in session. Amy Rusieckia, assistant director of the town's Department of Public Works, recalls an even more serious incident from 1980.
"We could not keep up with the water demand. We had to send all the college kids home until we could get enough water to be able to supply to the students. It is a very real concern in this area."
State driven efforts to conserve fresh water have long been in the works, and they moved closer to reality yesterday with the release of new guidelines meant to protect waterways and encourage conservation at the municipal level—where permits are issued to water-delivery companies, and where local conservation initiatives, like limits on lawn mowing, originate. Amherst is one of four communities in the state participating in a pilot exercise to determine the real-world impact of the new rules, but key variables like the impact on water use, and on water rates, remain hypothetical.
Environmentalists have long argued for state-led standards, but many are waiting to see how the new process plays out before declaring victory. Industry voices raise concerns about the effort and expense to comply with new regulations. Jennifer Pederson, executive director of a coalition of water suppliers, Massachusetts Water Works, says the impact could be particularly troublesome.
"One of the major concerns for the systems in western Mass, from our perspective, is they tend to be smaller and have less staffing and resources to deal with regulatory issues. And this is quite complex."
The latest framework will be followed up by specific rules before year's end, which the Commonwealth will begin phasing in in 2014.