Water Withdrawals Threaten New England Streams

New Report Lays Out Policy Solutions Washington, D.C. – As the legislatures in the New England states prepare for their upcoming sessions, Trout Unlimited today issued a report that highlights a topic high on the legislative agendas: depletion of regional water resources. “We have always taken our free-flowing streams and rivers for granted,” said Steve Angers, member of Trout Unlimited’s Southeastern Massachusetts Chapter and the state’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Water Management. “But this new report makes clear that we need to take serious steps now to make sure our coldwater streams and rivers are not dewatered.” Trout Unlimited’s new report, “A Glass Half Full: The Future of Water in New England,” highlights the growing problem of water withdrawals throughout the region. As the population grows and expands beyond its urban centers, that development places new and significant pressures on small headwater streams. “We’ve seen the Ipswich [Mass.] and Fenton [Conn.] Rivers literally dry up during the hot summer months,” said Angers. “And even though those may be the most dramatic examples, hundreds of streams in the region regularly experience low flows – that’s bad news for the fisheries, as well as the communities that enjoy the benefits of those streams and rely on them for drinking water.” New England’s water delivery system was established in the mid-1800s, when water supplies were plentiful and industrial users in Boston, Providence and other urban centers monopolized water demand. Since then, the region has experienced a spiderweb pattern of population growth and development away from the places that its water supply system originally was intended to serve. “The New England states are not seeing a bunch of new reservoirs,” explained Kirt Mayland, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Eastern Water Project. “So these communities and private landowners increasingly take water from the ground--water that otherwise would make its way into streams. And these small streams just can’t handle that kind of pressure.” The new report includes a set of specific policy recommendations intended to provide guidance for state laws and policies governing withdrawals, water use and streamflow requirements. “The current patchwork of state laws and policies does not protect our water resources,” said Mayland. “We hope to see several related bills come before the state legislatures this session, and we look forward to working with policy makers as they update the states’ laws and policies to respond to this growing problem.” The full report is available at www.tu.org/easternwater.