Your Drinking Water

Where does your community’s water come from?


Whether you live in the city or the country, the water that comes from your tap is taken from a river system. If you live in this watershed or in the cities of Beverly, Salem, or Lynn, your water comes from the Ipswich River, either directly or through groundwater wells that divert water from the river.

The Ipswich River supplies water to Beverly, Danvers, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynn, Lynnfield, Middleton, North Reading, Peabody, Salem, Topsfield, Wenham and Wilmington. Private wells in part of Boxford, a number of golf courses and other private businesses also draw water from the Ipswich River basin.

sprinklerResidential water use has a major effect on the river’s health. Did you know that the amount of water needed to restore natural flows in the river – an estimated 14.4 million gallons per day – is about equal to the estimated amount used for lawn watering?

The state advises residential water consumption be limited to 65 gallons a day per person. Shockingly, almost 100 Massachusetts communities are exceeding state guidelines for water usage; the average daily usage in many communities ranges from 75 to 167 gallons per person per day. Saving water saves energy and money, helps restore our local rivers to health and makes the region’s water supplies more reliable during droughts. Here are some ways to use water efficiently.

Click here to find out more about drinking water use in your town: Danvers/Middleton, Georgetown, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynn, Lynnfield, North Reading, Peabody, Reading, Salem/Beverly, Topsfield, Wenham, Wilmington

The table below shows the amount of water each community is allowed to withdraw from the Ipswich River under Massachusetts state regulations.

Municipal Water Use:

Town Type of Withdrawal Where taken from? # days permitted Volume permitted*
Beverly(see Salem & Beverly)
Boxford Private groundwater Throughout town
Danvers Water Department(also supplies Middleton) 3 surface water, 2 groundwater Middleton Pond, Emerson Brook Res., Swan Pond, Wells 1 & 2 365 3.72
Hamilton Water Department 5 groundwater Patton, Idlewood 1 & 2, School St., Caisson Wells 365 1.03
Ipswich Water Department 5 groundwater Winthrop 1, 2 & 3, Fellows Rd., Essex Rd. wells; reservoirs in Parker Basin 365 0.2
Lynn Water & Sewer Commission* 1 surface water** Divert Ipswich River in Lynnfield, add’l supply from No. Coastal Basin, add’l supply from MWRA 180** 2.62**
Lynnfield Center Water District 2 groundwater Glen Dr. bedrock well, Station 2 well 365 0.29
Middleton(see Danvers)
North Reading Water Department 8 groundwater Rt. 62 Well 1&2; Lakeside 2,3,4; Central St. grav & tubular, Rt. 125 wells 365 1.11
Peabody Department of Public Services 3 surface water, 2 groundwater Divert Ipswich River in Peabody, Suntaug Lake, Winona Pond, Pine St. & Johnson St. wells, add’l supply from No. Coastal Basin, add’l supply from MWRA 365 3.89
Reading DPW*** 9 groundwater Revay Well, 8 Gravel wells off Strout Ave. adjacent to river (Town Forest) 365 2.57
Salem & Beverly Water Supply Board 4 surface water Divert Ipswich River in Topsfield; Putnamville Res., Wenham Lake, Longham Res. 365 11.31
Topsfield Water Department 2 groundwater Perkins Row, North St. wells 365 0.6
Wenham Water Department 2 groundwater Pleasant St. Wells 1 & 2 365 0.39
Wilmington Water Department 8 groundwater Chestnut St., Browns Well, Salem St., Barrows, Town Park, Butter’s Row 1&2, Shawsheen Ave. 365 3.36
Total authorized municipal withdrawals 32.00


Non-Municipal Water Use:

Non-Municipal Water User Type of Withdrawal Where taken from? # days permitted Volume permitted*
Myopia Hunt Club 1 surface water Miles River, Hamilton 210 0.17
Corliss Brothers, Inc. 1 surface water Pond, Ipswich 147 0.22
Sagamore Spring Golf Club, Inc. 2 surface water,3 groundwater Lynnfield 122 0.12
Bostik Division-Emhart Corporation 3 surface water,3 groundwater Boston St., Middleton 365 0.79
The Flatley Co.-Ferncroft C. C. 1 surface water Off Locust St., Danvers 153 0.12
Thomson Club Inc. 2 surface water,1 groundwater Rt. 62, North Reading bedrock well 210 0.15
Meadow Brook Golf Club 1 surface water,1 groundwater Grove St., Reading 90 0.16
Total non-municipal 1.73
Total municipal and non-municipal authorized withdrawals 75 sources 33.73

*Figures in this column represent the number of millions of gallons per day (mgd) that may be withdrawn from the Ipswich River Basin.

**Lynn is authorized to withdraw an average of 5.31 mgd from Dec 1-May 31 only. The authorized withdrawal has been annualized to allow calculation/comparison of average year-round withdrawals. Lynn’s additional permitted volumes are adjusted in the same way.

***Reading stopped pumping water from their Ipswich wells in late 2006. Reading’s wells are now available as an emergency supply only. See our Fall 2006 newsletter (pdf) for a story on this important decision to restore flow to the Ipswich River.

More about Your Drinking Water

Wenham Lake Reservoir

Wenham Lake Reservoir

Public water supplies use either water stored in reservoirs or pumped from underground by wells. Both types of water withdrawals reduce flows in the river and leave less for fish and other river-life, as well as navigation, recreation and other uses of our rivers.

However, the timing and amounts of the water withdrawals result make a big difference in how significant the impacts on the river are. In the Ipswich River Watershed, groundwater withdrawals by streamside wells,especially in summer, have a very large impact and can reduce flows to a trickle or even dry up nearby streams and the river. Storage reservoirs are usually filled up in the winter and spring during higher flows, although they too sometimes reduce river flows below safe levels, especially when the winters and springs are drier than usual.

What is the water used for? In the home, the water we drink makes up less than a gallon a day, but we also need water for showers, baths, cooking, cleaning, dishwashing, laundry and toilets. A large amount of water is used outdoors, especially in summer, for lawn watering, car-washing and pool-filling. A household with very efficient showerheads, toilets and appliances can use 20 gallons per person per day or less — if they don’t water the lawn regularly. (This can save energy and money as well.) There are many industrial uses of water, and of course agriculture can use a lot of water, depending on the crop and irrigation methods. Towns and cities need water for fire fighting, municipal buildings, water treatment and other uses. (Tips for saving water)

How are water withdrawals regulated? Drinking water quality is regulated under various state and federal laws. The Water Management Act is the state law that governs how much water can be taken from our rivers by public water suppliers or large private water withdrawals. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is in charge of carrying out this law. The law requires “reasonable water conservation” and “reasonable protection” of a number of interests, including water quality, fisheries, wetlands, water-recreation, navigation, economic development and water supply. Some of these interests could conflict with others. DEP has broad discretion in what reasonable protection of these interests means, and has not yet developed any criteria for these requirements. DEP must also achieve a balance among competing water withdrawals and uses, and must “preserve the water resource itself.” Again, DEP has significant discretion as to what all this means. (Learn about our work to keep enough water in the river for people and nature.)

Back to Top of Page