Communities Take a Closer Look at Private Well Restrictions

Many towns in the Ipswich Watershed have an abundance of private wells used for irrigation, as shown by this snapshot of well locations in Wilmington.

Many towns in the Ipswich Watershed have an abundance of private wells used for irrigation, as shown by this snapshot of well locations in Wilmington.

As a result of recent drought conditions and public water supply restrictions, there has been a proliferation of new private wells across the Commonwealth. Residents and businesses often use their private wells for “non-essential outdoor water use”, defined as those uses that are not required for health or safety reasons or for agricultural purposes. The impact of non-essential use of irrigation wells on public water supplies has become particularly concerning for many communities in our region. To assist communities, the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance has been investigating the current state of private well restrictions in Massachusetts and has recently released a research paper entitled “Private Irrigation Wells Nonessential Use Restrictions in Massachusetts.”

The Mass Rivers Alliance report summarizes the applicable laws and regulations impacting private wells, provides examples of current approaches to private well regulations, and addresses obstacles to and recommendations for private well regulations. To download the report, click here.

To date, very few communities in Massachusetts have municipal water restriction bylaws that include private well use; the Mass Rivers Alliance reports the count at five state-wide. However in the Parker-Ipswich-Essex (PIE-Rivers) watersheds, three of our local communities already do incorporate private wells into community water use restrictions – Hamilton, Wenham, and Topsfield, and three more communities are working on bringing bylaw revisions to their spring Town Meetings.

Ipswich River Watershed staff and our PIE-Rivers partners at the Parker River Clean Water Association have been working with the towns of Rowley, Ipswich, and Middleton to provide information and guidance on the regulations and bylaw language. Several volunteer citizen groups are also engaged. If we can be of any assistance, please contact Environmental Planner Kristen Grubbs at 978-412-8200 or kgrubbs@ipswichriver.org.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Howard - January 31, 2017

    Great initiative Kristin. More communities need to understand that we’re all drinking from the same springs and those are not unlimited.