The second largest sole source aquifer in Massachusetts, the Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer (the Aquifer) covers 140 square miles underlying the towns of Plymouth, Carver, Kingston, Wareham, Plympton, Middleborough, and Bourne. The Aquifer contains over 500 billion gallons of fresh water (USGS 1992), and serves as a critical water resource for residential, commercial, and agricultural uses in the area. Though its resources are vast, they are not unlimited, nor are they unaffected by contamination.
On August 7, 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a notice announcing that the Plymouth-Carver Aquifer satisfies all criteria for designation as a sole source aquifer. Specifically, the EPA recognizes that the Aquifer is the only source of drinking water for many residents in the area, that there are no alternative sources of water in the area that could meet the demand, and that contamination would create a public health hazard and financial burden (EPA 1990).
In 2006, the Massachusetts legislature charged the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to work with designees from each of the seven towns in the Aquifer region in order to develop a plan for protecting their shared resource from depletion and contamination. This plan, the Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer Action Plan (PCAAP), was released in 2007. Stressing the importance of home rule, the PCAAP lays out recommendations for towns to work together to protect the Aquifer. The four primary focus areas of the PCAAP are: (1) Policy, (2) Coordination and technology transfer, (3) Outreach for target audiences, and (4) Grants and funding (Fuss & O’Neill 2007).
The recommendations of the PCAAP articulate the importance of open space planning as a tool to protect the Aquifer, stating, “To enhance existing municipal open space protection efforts, municipalities of the Plymouth-Carver Aquifer Advisory Committee (PCAAC) should work together to develop an areawide open space protection plan. An areawide plan will foster the development of clear priorities for the [Aquifer] and will help to maintain the integrity of existing intermunicipal open space tracts. An areawide plan will also increase the likelihood of receiving financial assistance from the state” (Fuss & O’Neill 2007, p.5).
In 2007, the Massachusetts legislature appropriated additional funds to assist Aquifer communities in implementing the recommendations of the PCAAP. As a result, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs contracted with the Urban Harbors Institute (UHI) to develop this regional open space plan for the Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer. Working closely with members of the PCAAC, town officials, and members of the public, this plan provides a series of recommendations to help guide the towns of Plymouth, Carver, Wareham, Kingston, Plympton, Bourne, and Middleborough in making open space decisions that protect the quality and quantity of water in the Aquifer and encourage collaboration on a regional scale.
Urban Harbors Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston, "Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer: Regional Open Space Plan" (2008). Urban Harbors Institute Publications. 9.