MassDEP Regulations

The Water Management Act gives the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection the authority to regulate ground water and surface water withdrawals in excess of 0.100 million gallons per day (MGD). The Water Management Act was enacted during the 1980's and there were quite a few water suppliers that fell under the new regulations. The regulations created what is refered to as a "registration" volume which is the amount of water historically withdrawn by the supplier at the time DEP's regulation took affect. Some suppliers have filed for water management permits to allow withdrawals in excess of the registration volume. The Town of Topsfield currently has a registration volume of 0.430 MGD and a permitted volume of 0.170 MGD.

A common question is: "Why are developers allowed to build new homes in Topsfield if we need to have water restrictions each summer?   The short answer is the water withdrawal permit issued to the Town by the Department of Environmental Protection attempts to balance the environmental concerns of low stream flow with the water needs of the Town.  This is done by restricting non-essential use during dry periods while allowing some growth as long as the Town uses its limited water resources efficiently.


Water restrictions implemented due to low stream flow are aimed at reducing non-essential outdoor water use, particularly lawn irrigation.   During periods of low flow, non-essential outdoor water use is reduced and the balance shifts towards environmental concerns.  The modified permit that requires the restrictions took effect during the summer of 2006.  From 2006 to 2009, our withdrawals averaged 0.47 million gallons per day (mgd) from May 1st through September 30th during this period.  In the ten years prior to 2006 we averaged 0.62 mgd. As a result of some wet summers and the water restrictions, use has dropped by approximately 25% during the summer months.

The Town of Topsfield has a registration volume of 0.43 million gallons per day and a permit volume of 0.17 MGD. Due to the concerns about the health of the Ipswich River, the DEP added a number of special conditions to our water withdrawal permit. These conditions are aimed at reducing what is considered to be "non-essential" outdoor water use during the summer months and improve the operation of the water distribution system. The following is a list of the some of conditions and how they affect the Town.

Water Restrictions:

We are required to implement outdoor water use restrictions based on Ipswich River streamflow. These restrictions are required regardless of the condition of our supply wells and are designed to reduce water use when streamflows are below critical levels. Based on historical flow data, there will be a mandatory water ban virutally every year due to this condition. Bans implemented due to this restriction are not due to lack of production capacity but to environmental concerns. At the end of each calendar year we are required to submit to DEP a list of actions taken to enforce the water restrictions including the names and addresses of the violators.

Summer Withdrawal Cap:

A limit, 0.55 MGD,was placed on how much water can be withdrawn between May 1st and September 30th each year. We have been 0.05 MGD below this limit for the past several years due to the water restctions based on streamflow. In the event that the streamflow does not drop below critical levels, it is likely that there will still be mandatory restrictions to comply with this withdrawal limit.

Annual Leak Detection:

We have voluntarily conducted leak detection surveys on an annual basis for over 5 years but are now required to do them annually. The surveys help locate leaks that have not surfaced and may go unnoticed for long periods of time. They are a good way of reducing leakage losses which saves money and allows more water for growth and/or current use.

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Water Department

279 Boston Street

Topsfield, MA 01983


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Highway Department

279 Boston Street

Topsfield, MA 01983


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