Water Disputes in Massachusetts

Water Disputes in Massachusetts


It may come as a surprise that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which receives almost four feet of rain per year, faces water shortages. In 2009, several related legal disputes developed. Municipalities sought to protect their water supplies against challenges from each other, the Commonwealth, environmental groups, and private water companies. Legislation to promote sustainability was engulfed in debate. And, environmental groups staged a high-profile protest of a state proposal to allow future water consumption to be based on an elusive definition of “safe yield.”

In an article that originally appeared in the Water Resources Committee Newsletter of the American Bar Association, WilmerHale Environmental Counsel H. David Gold analyzes these disputes and the legal framework surrounding them. He tracks the history of water rights in the Commonwealth, highlights pivotal developments and identifies emerging trends.

“This is a captivating time for water law in Massachusetts, and we can’t take water supplies for granted,” says Gold. “The courts, legislators, and agencies are working to strike the right balance between competing interests and account for a dynamic mix of science, economics, law, and politics.”

Since the article was published, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in one of the cases discussed, finding that the state environmental agency lacks authority to impose conservation requirements on “grandfathered” (existing) water users.

Read the full text of the article: Water Disputes in Massachusetts.

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