table border table border
Massachusetts Watershed-Based Plan 
Purpose & Need
Information Sources
How to Use the WBP Web Site
Frequently Asked Questions

Proceed to the Reporting and Mapping Application >>

Purpose & Need
The purpose of the Massachusetts Watershed-Based Plan (WBP) is to organize information about Massachusetts's watersheds, and present it in a format that will enhance the development and implementation of projects that will restore water quality and beneficial uses in the Commonwealth. The WBP follows EPA's recommended format and is presented consistent with Massachusetts's twenty-seven major planning basins.

All states are required to develop WBPs, but not all states have taken the same approach. Many states, including most or all in New England, have chosen to develop watershed-based plans only for selected watersheds. This will necessarily focus their efforts, and limit their 319 grant funds, to the selected basins. MassDEP's approach has been to develop the WBP statewide, so that good projects in all basins will remain eligible for 319 implementation funds.

On October 23, 2003, EPA issued new guidelines promoting the use of Section 319 funding for developing and implementing Watershed-Based Plans to protect unimpaired waters and restore impaired waters (Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories [Oct. 23, 2003]). Watershed-Based Plans to restore impaired waters are required for all projects implemented with s.319 incremental dollars, and are recommended for all watershed projects, whether they are designed to protect unimpaired waters, restore impaired waters, or both. The October 23, 2003 Guidance listed nine components required to be included in Watershed-Based Plans to restore waters impaired by nonpoint source pollution.

The nine components of a Watershed-Based Plan required by EPA are as follows:

  1. An identification of the causes and sources or groups of similar sources that will need to be controlled to achieve the load reductions estimated in this watershed-based plan (and to achieve any other watershed goals identified in the watershed-based plan), as discussed in item (b) immediately below.
  2. An estimate of the load reductions expected for the management measures described under paragraph (c) below (recognizing the natural variability and the difficulty in precisely predicting the performance of management measures over time).
  3. A description of the NPS management measures that will need to be implemented to achieve the load reductions estimated under paragraph (b) above (as well as to achieve other watershed goals identified in this watershed-based plan), and an identification (using a map or a description) of the critical areas in which those measures will be needed to implement this plan.
  4. An estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon, to implement this plan. As sources of funding, States should consider the use of their Section 319 programs, State Revolving Funds, USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Reserve Program, and other relevant Federal, State, local and private funds that may be available to assist in implementing this plan.
  5. An information/education component that will be used to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing the NPS management measures that will be implemented.
  6. A schedule for implementing the NPS management measures identified in this plan that is reasonably expeditious.
  7. A description of interim, measurable milestones for determining whether NPS management measures or other control actions are being implemented.
  8. A set of criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made towards attaining water quality standards and, if not, the criteria for determining whether this watershed-based plan needs to be revised or, if a NPS TMDL has been established, whether the NPS TMDL needs to be revised.
  9. A monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria established under item (h) immediately above.

Information Sources
A number of fundamental resource documents provided the information for this WBP. The exact set of resources for each basin is spelled out in the technical memo for the basin. In general, the reference documents include

In many cases, a great deal of additional information was available but not directly cited, because the information has also been incorporated into the basic resource documents. Data not supported by a DEP- and EPA approved Quality Assurance Project Plan has not been used.

Four types of NPS 'causes' are cited which relate to River and Stream Segments:

The term "impairment" has regulatory meaning. The letter I denotes a cause that is documented as an impairment in Category 4 or 5 of the Massachusetts Year 2002 Integrated List of Waters.
Water Quality Assessment Reports include impairments, but may also report causes that are suspected or that are otherwise not included on the Integrated List. Water Quality Assessments also report resources that fail to meet their designated uses. R denotes a nonpoint source water quality problem that is reported in the most recent Water Quality Assessment Report for the basin, but not in Category 4 or 5 of the Massachusetts Year 2002 Integrated List of Waters.
Water Quality Assessment Reports and other source documents sometimes specify that a cause is from a point source, not a nonpoint source. The letter P denotes a suspected or actual point source that has been identified in one or more source documents. Point sources cannot be addressed with nonpoint source funds or resources. The information is provided in the WBP as a way to clearly segregate point sources from eligible nonpoint source work.
Modeling has been used to supplement the Element A information provided for the four primary NPS pollutants: nitrogen, phosphorus, fecal coliform bacteria, and total suspended solids. A letter M denotes a cause that is reported based on a modeled prediction that the pollutant is likely to exist in the HUC watershed.

All Lake and Pond impairments are Type I (also called 303d listed):

Category 4: Represents a water quality impairment which does not require a TMDL.

Category 4a - TMDL is completed.
Category 4b - Waters expected to attain all designated uses in the near future.
Category 4c - Impairment is not caused by a pollutant.

Category 5: Represents a water quality impairment which requires a TMDL.

How to Use the WBP Web Site
The WBP will help you to identify known and likely causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution in your watershed. It will also help you to prioritize the NPS problems, identify appropriate best management practices and watershed-based strategies for addressing the problems, and develop winning proposals to fund the work using 319 nonpoint source competitive grant funds or similar programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need to read all of this?
How do I interpret the grid?
Why does the WBP use HUC 12 watersheds?
What's the purpose of the Watershed-based Plan, and why is it needed?
How is this plan different from EOEA Watershed Action Plans, the Nonpoint Source Management Plan, and other resources and planning documents?
Who developed this plan?
What are the components of the WBP?
What is the intended use for this plan?
Why and how was the modeling done?
How will this plan be updated?
How can I give feedback on the WBP?

Do I really need to read all of this? No. The WBP is constructed using links that will take you to increasingly detailed levels of explanation about its features. If you simply want an overview of conditions in a Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) -12 subwatershed or a major basin, you can quickly navigate there using the WBP map and then see what the resulting grid tells you. (See the Map Tutorial for instructions.)

How do I interpret the grid? The grid is set up to show the presence or likelihood of water quality problems. The Causes Grid (click the link below the Major Basin drop-down) shows the information for the entire major basin, organized by causes and by HUC-12 subwatershed. Once a HUC 12 subwatershed has been selected on the map or drop-downs, the Causes Tab fills in with the same information, just for that subwatershed.

I denotes that one or more segments in the HUC 12 watershed are NPS impaired, or 303d listed (Category 4 or 5) in the Massachusetts Year 2002 or 2004 Integrated List of Waters. (Read below for more about HUCs and how they relate to impaired segments). Impairments are high priority water quality problems that should be targeted for remediation. Refer to Table 1 in each basin Technical Memorandum to see how the segments are assigned to HUC 12 units, and check Table A-1 in the Technical Memorandum (Further Information tab) for a reference that documents and describes the impairment. Follow the other Further Information links (A-I) to see what recommendations and resources are available to guide implementation work.

R means that a nonpoint source problem is suspected, and it is reported in the most recent Water Quality Assessment Report; but it has not been adequately documented with quality-assured data to be called an impairment. Nevertheless, these are also very important problems that should be addressed. As with Type I causes, Table A-1 in the Technical Memorandum will help identify the specific location of the reported problem, and links on the Further Information tab will guide you to additional information and resources.

P type problems may actually be on the Integrated List (Type I) or reported in the Water Quality Assessment, but these problems have been identified as primarily point source in origin. Because the WBP is focused on nonpoint source pollution, the known and suspected point sources are flagged as Type P to indicate that NPS work will probably not wholly remediate the problem. Nevertheless, Table A-1 in the Technical Memo will guide you to further explanation of the problem, and the Further Information may help shape effective remediation projects.

M indicates a modeled prediction of a NPS problem throughout the HUC 12 subwatershed, based on land use and other criteria spelled out in each basin Technical Memorandum. Modeling was done for each of the four main nonpoint source pollutants, Total Phosphorus, Total Nitrogen, Total Suspended Solids, and fecal coliform, for each watershed and HUC-12 subwatershed. Whereas the other cause types, I, R, and P, may only indicate that one segment is affected, a Type M cause indicates that the problem is likely pervasive throughout the subwatershed.

  • The modeled prediction may serve to support I, R, or P problems already identified. For example, this would be the case where modeling predicts a phosphorus and/or nitrogen problem, and a Type I or R cause for nutrients or related problems is also identified in the subwatershed. Similarly, a modeled fecal coliform prediction may occur in a HUC 12 subwatershed that already shows a pathogen problem in one or more segments.
  • M can indicate that further monitoring and assessment work should be done in the subwatershed to investigate the prediction, even where no Type I, R, or P causes have been identified.

Why does the WBP use HUC 12 watersheds? Massachusetts uses more than one convention for delineating watersheds, whereas the Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) convention is widely used by EPA, USGS, and other federal agencies. As the WBP is presented in accordance with EPA guidelines, it makes sense to follow a convention already being used by that agency. HUC units nest within larger HUC units, with larger HUC units having smaller numbers. Massachusetts's major planning basins are generally, though not completely, consistent with HUC 8 watersheds, but thereafter each basin is described by MassDEP in a multitude of small segments that are delineated in Water Quality Assessments and other reference documents. The segments are too numerous to be practical for organizing the WBP. HUC 10 watersheds nest within the HUC 8 watersheds, but proved to be too large to provide the necessary level of detail for the WBP (there are 74 HUC 10 units in the state). Using HUC 12 units, of which there are about 275, proved to be most reasonable, although still having the disadvantage that several MassDEP segments exist within each HUC 12. A significant drawback of using the HUC 12 convention (each HUC 12 is slightly larger than the average town) is that multiple affected segments may be found within one HUC 12; or, alternatively, only one affected segment may be found there. In either case, the entire HUC 12 is labeled with the problem, requiring the reader to conduct further research to refine the target area. Refer to Table 1 in each basin Technical Memorandum to see how the segments are assigned to HUC 12 units.

What's the purpose of the Watershed-based Plan, and why is it needed?The Watershed-based Plan (WBP) is focused on water quality issues related to nonpoint source pollution. It synthesizes information from the many watershed plans and reference documents that exist for each of Massachusetts's planning basins. It provides a single, comprehensive source of information with regard to water quality issues, recommended strategies, and resources that will help with developing and implementing effective water quality remediation activities, and with identification of priority assessment and monitoring work. This Watershed-based Plan addresses nine elements specified by EPA that define a WBP. The WBP is necessary to satisfy an EPA requirement that will enable MassDEP to continue to award s.319 competitive grant funds in all watersheds.

How is this plan different from EOEA Watershed Action Plans, the Nonpoint Source Management Plan, and other resources and planning documents? The WBP relies on these and other documents, including the MassDEP Water Quality Assessment Reports, EOEA Watershed Action Plans, Nonpoint Source Management Plan, and Total Maximum Daily Load Analyses, as its foundation. The Watershed-based Plan focuses on aspects of those documents related to nonpoint source pollution problems and effective ways to address them. With the exception of the modeled predictions of nonpoint source-related water quality problems, no new information is presented in the WBP.

Who developed this plan? This project was developed by MassDEP's Bureau of Resource Protection (BRP), using s.319 Nonpoint Source Competitive Grant funds. Following a competitive bid process, a contract for the work was awarded in April of 2005 to the BETA Group, Inc. of Lincoln, Rhode Island. BRP staff worked in cooperation with the BETA Group and their subcontractors, Applied Technology & Management, Inc (ATM), Applied Geographics, Inc (AppGeo), and Baystate Environmental Consultants, Inc. (BSE) to complete the work.

What are the components of the WBP? The Massachusetts Watershed-based Plan has twenty-seven sections consistent with the twenty seven major planning basins in Massachusetts, with each section serving as a stand-alone watershed-based plan for the basin.

The Watershed-based Plan is does not exist as a hard-copy document. Instead, it is presented as an interactive web site which provides access to all components of the Plan through web links and a GIS map. Hover the cursor over areas of the map page to see a pop-up explanation of the feature. Major components of the WBP web site include:

Introduction, Background, Information Sources, and How to use this Plan. This general discussion, along with this Frequently Asked Questions section, will orient the reader to the Plan and its components.

Interactive Map. Watershed-specific information can be accessed directly by clicking on areas of interest and using the map tools to refine the target areas. See the Map Tutorial for instructions.

Causes of water quality problems. Once a target area is selected, causes of water quality problems are listed by basin and also by HUC 12 watershed, if one has been selected.

  • The Causes Grid link, found below the Major Basin drop-down menu, summarizes all causes for the basin by HUC 12 watershed. Throughout the WBP, four types of causes are reported: I (impairment), R (reported), P (point source), and M (modeled prediction).
  • The Causes tab automatically fills in when a HUC 12 watershed is selected, summarizing information for the HUC 12 in the same IRPM grid format used for the basin. To learn more, see "How do I Interpret the Grid?"

Individual Total Maximum Daily Load Analyses (TMDLs) provide the most accurate quantitative analyses of water quality impairments. These detailed analyses are written for specific impaired segments or waterbodies (not HUC 12 watersheds). TMDLs offer recommendations for actions to control pollutants and restore water quality in the affected area. TMDLs have been developed for many impaired segments and waterbodies in Massachusetts. Where TMDLs are available, recommendations found therein represent priority actions to be taken to restore water quality. Links to available TMDLs for the HUC 12 watershed are found on the Causes tab of the map page. Check the MassDEP web site for updates on TMDLs that have been drafted or approved since development of the WBP.

Sources of NPS are associated with land use. The Sources tab summarizes by percentage of cover the types of land uses found in the selected HUC 12 watershed. (This is the same land use data used in the modeling exercise, further described in the Technical Memorandum for the basin.) A link to the Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Management Manual is also provided here, to enable the reader to easily find Best Management Practices that are appropriate for the land uses in the HUC.

Further Information. Once a basin has been selected, you'll find links to additional documents related to the WBP at the Further Information tab .

A Technical Memorandum for each basin, describing how the nine required WBP elements have been addressed through existing documents and modeling. Each TM discusses how the modeling was undertaken for the specific basin, and provides analysis and justification for the modeled results. Specific documents and information sources addressing the nine elements of the WBP plan are also discussed in each TM. Links are provided to enable the reader to easily access supporting documents.

A Quality Assurance Project Plan describes in detail the methodology for developing the WBP. One QAPP covers the entire project. The QAPP describes such things as how the model was selected, why HUC 12 was chosen as the watershed unit, how the causes are identified and reported, and how the modeling thresholds have been established.

A-I links that will direct you to additional resources that address the nine required EPA elements of a Watershed-Based Plan.

What is the intended use for this plan? Achieving or maintaining water quality standards and the restoration of beneficial uses is a national priority. The WBP is a tool to help Massachusetts municipal officials, watershed groups, and other stakeholders understand more about conditions in their watersheds and take action to improve water quality. The WBP consolidates the data, resources, and recommendations from several major planning documents and data sources to support development of effective water quality improvement strategies and facilitate further assessment work. Specifically, by identifying priority water quality problems and providing recommendations for action, the WBP serves as the basis for developing competitive grant projects. Similarly, reported problems and modeled predictions of HUC-wide causes can be used as a basis for monitoring and assessment work.

Why and how was the modeling done? The modeling was done as a way to address data gaps in watersheds where insufficient or no data is available, and as a way to extrapolate information in watersheds where data does exist. Modeling was done using the WMM model, based on land use and other watershed features and characteristics. Each major planning basin was individually modeled and analyzed to incorporate unique and basin-specific information. Modeled results predict a water quality impact for an entire HUC-12 watershed. A general discussion of the modeling is provided in the QAPP, and basin-specific details are provided in the Technical Memorandum for each basin; a link to each of these documents is found at the bottom of the Further Information tab on the WBP map web page.

How will this plan be updated? We anticipate conducting an annual review of the WBP to assess the need for updating links to documents and resources, editing narrative, and making changes to causes grids. We do not anticipate regular updating of the modeling or Technical Memoranda, or undertaking other major revisions; this will be done on an as-needed basis.

How can I give feedback on the WBP? Contact Jane Peirce, MassDEP 319 Program Coordinator, 508-767-2792, 627 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608

dep logo top
Mass DEP Watershed v2.0.2 [production]
by AppGeo