Appendix P: Glossary

Some commonly-used terms and acronyms and their definitions:


303d – 303 d refers to a section in the federal Clean Water Act requiring all states to submit, biennially to the EPA, a list of waterways not meeting assigned water quality standards.  The 303 d is a list of the known impaired waters in a state or on tribal lands.

319 grant – Section 319 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the awarding of EPA funds for Nonpoint Source Grants that promote the development and implementation of watershed-based plans and NPS pollution reduction. The grants are administered in Massachusetts by MA DEP, and are proposed in the early months of each calendar year.

604b grant –Section 604b of the federal Clean Water Act authorizes the awarding of EPA funds for water quality assessment and management planning grants. The grants are administered in Massachusetts by the MA DEP, and are proposed in the late months of each calendar year. A 319 grant may be used to implement the plan from a 604b grant – the distinction is that 604b grants are planning and 319 grants are implementation.

8T&B – Eight Towns and the Bay, a watershed group based around Cape Ann,

ACEC – Areas of Critical Environmental Concern are places in Massachusetts that receive special recognition because of the quality, uniqueness and significance of their natural and cultural resources. ACECs are nominated by local environmental groups, designated by the EOEA Secretary, and administered by DCR (DEM).

ACOE – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (or COE).

Agricultural Protection Restrictions – Similar to a conservation restriction, Chapter 132A § 31 allows the state to purchase an Agricultural Preservation Restriction on farmlands, restricting use of the land to agricultural activities. 

Anadromous: Fish that breed in fresh water but live their adult life in the sea. They spawn by running upstream.  

APR --- Area for Preservation or Restoration or Agriculture Preservation Restriction

Aquifer – An underground geologic formation capable of holding large quantities of water in the (interstitial) spaces between rocks, sand and soil.  Aquifers may serve as a source of drinking water.

ASMFC --- Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Bacteria – Microscopic one-celled organisms found everywhere.  Some bacteria have the potential to be a public health threat.  In Massachusetts there are defined limits for a specific bacteria, (fecal coliform) in water bodies.

Bacterial Contamination – Water with levels of indicator bacteria exceeding state or federal standards. Indicator bacteria are used as a proxy for the presence of pathogens that may pose a public health threat because of their relative simple and cost effective testing methods.

Basin – A topographic designation based on drainage patterns.  The water flowing within a basin (or watershed) eventually flows to one common point.  The state has been divided into 27 major basins under the Watershed Initiative.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) – Techniques which may be nonstructural, structural or managerial capable of effectively and economically reducing nonpoint sources of pollution.

Biomonitoring – Examining the biological (living) communities in a given body of water (or other habitat) to determine the complexity, diversity, and species composition in the water body.  This information helps assess the overall health of the habitat.

BOD --- Biological Oxygen Demand (a measure of waterway health).

Board of Health (BOH) – In Massachusetts it is the local board responsible for health issues in the community including septic systems. It is usually a volunteer board.

Buffer – An area of no or limited activity along a water way functioning as a filter of pollutants contained in runoff, a wildlife corridor, flood plain, and several other benefits.

Bylaws – Local regulations passed by a community.

CCMP --- Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan

CERCLA --- Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (Federal)

CFIP --- Coastal Facilities Improvement Program

Chapter 61 – A manner by which lands can be classified as Forest Lands in a process overseen by the MA Department of Environmental Management. Lands certified as Forest Lands are taxed, at a special rate, according to provisions established in Chapter 61. Chapter 61A is the section of Chapter 61 applicable to agricultural and horticultural lands and 61B is the section dealing with recreational lands eligible for special tax assessments. 

Class A, B, C water quality standards – Under the Federal Clean Water Act, each state must establish specific water quality classifications with defined water quality criteria. In Massachusetts waters are assigned an A, B or C classification. A waterway’s classification reflects the water quality needed for the designated uses of a given water body (the waterways potential) and not the existing water quality.

Class B water – A waterway classified by the state as being capable of meeting the following water quality level, “suitable habitat for fish, other aquatic life and wildlife, and primary and secondary contact recreation. Can be used, when so designated, as drinking water with proper treatment and for agriculture and industry and good and consistent aesthetic value.” 

Clean Water Act (CWA) – A federal law establishing comprehensive national policies for water quality management.  The essence of the CWA is to have all US waters “fishable and swim able”.

Cluster zoning – A relatively new development method that places buildings in close proximity to each other, (a cluster) while maximizing the amount of contiguous open space and preserving the most sensitive natural habitats. Cluster zoning requires a variance in most communities.

CNPSP --- Coastal Nonpoint Source Program (Federal)

Community Preservation Act – In 2000, the Community Preservation Act (CPA) was passed in Massachusetts providing the opportunity for communities to choose to establish a local fund to be used for open space protection, historic preservation and the creation of low and moderate income housing. To establish a fund, communities must pass by referendum a property tax of up to 3% dedicated to their Community Preservation Fund. 

Conservation agent – An individual hired by a community to administer the wishes and rulings of the Conservation Commission, assist proponents with aspects of the Wetland and Rivers Protection Acts, oversee and enforce projects falling under jurisdiction of the ConComm, and serve as a liaison to other community boards.

Conservation Commission  (ConComm) – A volunteer board within a Massachusetts community responsible for administering the Wetland Protection Act and the River Protection Act. ConComms are charged with upholding the tenets of the law, conducting public hearings, writing conditions for a proponent to follow to avoid harm to resource areas, and overseeing any local wetland bylaws. They are also responsible for community open space held as conservation title lands.

CSO --- Combined Sewer Overflow

Cultural Eutrophication – When the natural process of eutrophication, growth and decay in an aquatic ecosystem, is accelerated by an increase of nutrients derived from societal sources such as lawns, roads, wastewater, and stormwater runoff. 

CZM – the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (or CZMA), administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), awards and administers grants for coastal projects. Also, the Massachusetts CZM office (see MCZM-NS), administered by EOEA.

DCR –  the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the state agency responsible for managing parks and recreational areas. (Merged MDC and DEM).

DCS --- the Massachusetts Division of Conservation Services

DELE --- the Massachusetts Division of Environmental Law Enforcement

DEM – the old Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, the old name for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). DEM was merged in 2003 with the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) to form the new DCR.

DEP – the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency responsible for enforcing environmental regulations, and for administering EPA 319 and 604b grants.

DEQE --- the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering (Predecessor Agency to DEP)

DFA – the old Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture, now the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). 

DFG  – the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (formerly DFWELE).

DFWELE – the old Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement, now the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Diagnostic / Feasibility – A method used to assess the ecological health of lakes or ponds and specify management and corrective actions.  

Division of Conservation Services Self Help Funds – The Division of Conservations Services is within the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. The Self Help Funding program is charged with helping communities acquire or protect, through conservation restrictions, land for the protection of wildlife, habitat, and unique cultural, historic or natural resources and for passive recreation. Lands may include forests, water resources, and farmlands. Land purchased with the help of these funds must be open to the public.  

Ecoregion – A geographic area with a unique assemblage of ecological characteristic, (soil, climate, geology and vegetation) making it distinct from another area.

Ecosystem integrity – The ability of a natural system to function suitably. An important component in its ability to function as a viable ecosystem is the presence of native species in balanced amounts and synergistic relationships between the individual components of the ecosystem (plants, animals, physical parameters) as developed over eons of co-existence. 

EEZ --- Exclusive Economic Zone (offshore designation)

Effluent – Wastewater as it leaves a treatment system.  Examples are discharges from sewage treatment facilities or water used in an industrial cooling system.

EOEA – the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the state executive agency responsible for promulgating and administering environmental regulations.

EPA – the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for promulgating regulations and enforcing the CWA, awarding grants under the Section 319 and 604b, and administering the federal Watershed Initiative, among other tasks.

Erosion – The accelerated removal of soils and earth by storm flows, alteration of topography and/or drainage, changes in flow patterns or mechanical disruptions (such as boat wakes). Signs of erosion can include gullies, undercut banks, slumping, and higher turbidity in adjacent waterways.

Eutrophic Pond – A pond receiving an excess of nutrients, especially phosphorus, from the surrounding watershed will experience a greatly accelerated rate of plant growth. Plant growth and decomposition is a naturally process but when the nutrients cause excessive growth the natural system is overwhelmed. The result is often thick plant and algae growth in a pond, loss of biodiversity, stressful conditions for aquatic life and the potential for complete collapse of the natural ecosystem.

Eutrophication – Eutrophication is the natural process of nutrients entering a water body resulting in increased biological activity. The natural processes may be accelerated and intensified by human activities that cause excessive quantities of nutrients to flow into a water body leading to unchecked growth of aquatic plants, subsequent depleted oxygen levels and in some cases the collapse of the aquatic ecosystem and the premature succession of the area a wetland or upland.

Executive Order 418 – Governor Swift instituted this Executive Order to promote the development of new housing in a sustainable manner. The state provided $30,000 worth of services to communities requesting help with the drafting of a comprehensive plan encompassing housing, environmental issues, transportation needs and economic growth.

FOLQ – Friends of Lake Quannapowitt, a watershed group based in Wakefield,

Forest and land management –  The practice of creating a plan for the long-term management of a forest or area of land that is sustainable and protective of natural ecosystems.

Geographical Information System (GIS) – A relatively new and useful computer-based system allowing the creation of ‘data layers’ that may be overlain to create customized maps with specific information. Examples of data layers include open spaces, watershed boundaries, topography and land use.

Habitat – A space providing the components a species needs to survive. For plants, habitat needs involve soil, water, sunlight, and climate while animals need a habitat that also provides shelter and food.  

HMGNE --- Historic Maritime Group of New England

Hydrology – The study or science of water behavior (occurrence and movement) in the atmosphere, on the surface of the planet and below the surface.

Impervious Surface – A surface that does not allow water to penetrate such as pavement.

Imperviousness – The degree to which water can seep through a surface.

Industrial discharge –  Discharges of wastewater (it may be treated contact water or untreated non-contact process or cooling water)  from an industrial facility into the waters of the United States. Industrial discharges are regulated under a provision of the federal Clean Water Act and must obtain a permit (NPDES) to discharge.

Interbasin Transfer – A transfer of water from one basin/watershed into another.  These transfers are regulated in Massachusetts under the Interbasin Transfer Act.

Invasive species/plants – These are plants or animals able to quickly and easily populate an area or habitat. They are usually very adaptable and can take advantage of and tolerate disturbed or unstable conditions. The end result is typically a loss in natural diversity in the area and diminished value as habitat for birds, animals and native species. 

ISSC --- Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Commission

Land use – The activity occurring on a given parcel or land. There is an existing system for characterizing land use into categories such as open space, residential-single family Ό acre, or urban. Associated with these land use categories are characteristic such as amount of traffic generated or pollutant loads that can assist in planning and modeling .

Leachate – Material, usually liquids, leaking from a disposal area, underground storage unit or poorly designed storage area. Leachate may or may not contain pollutants or hazardous substances.

LID -- Low Impact Development – accounting for runoff, non-point source pollution, etc. in permitting and development planning.

LWSC – Lynn Water and Sewer Commission.

MACC --- Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions

MA Scenic River Protection Act – [Chapter 21A §2(28)] Administer by the MA Department of Environmental Management, the Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act allows for the designation or rivers or river sections as scenic and recreational rivers. Designated rivers have orders put in place to preserve and promote public safety, health and welfare, protect public and private property, wildlife, freshwater fisheries and irreplaceable wild and scenic recreational river resources.  

Macroinvertebrate (sampling or inventory) – Macroinvertebrates are small, but visible with the naked eye, animals without backbones (insects, worms, larvae, etc.). Water bodies have communities of aquatic macroinvertebrates. The species composition, species diversity and abundance of the macroinvertebrates in a given water body can provide valuable information on the relative health and water quality of a waterway.

MAPC – Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning council covering most of the NCW.

MassGIS --- Massachusetts Geographic Information System

MBP --- Massachusetts Bays Program

MCZM-NS -- Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Program's North Shore Region – a federally-established program administered by EOEA – see CZMA. 

MDAR – the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, formerly the Department of Food and Agriculture (DFA).

MDC – the old Metropolitan District Commission, the old name for DCR’s Division of Urban Parks and Recreation.

MDMF – the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries.

MFCMA --- Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Federal)

MGD – Million Gallons per Day, a measure of water flow.

MGL --- Massachusetts General Laws

Mixed use development – A planning philosophy that does not segregate uses, (residential, retail, commercial, industrial) but opts for a complementary mix of uses. For example, this approach would allow retail on a first floor, office space above and apartments on the upper most floors.

MWI – The Massachusetts Watershed Initiative. An EOEA-run program which established Watershed Teams in 27 watersheds statewide, with a dedicated staff person assigned as Watershed Team Leader in each watershed. The MWI was dissolved in February 2003 but EOEA still applies the goals and methods of the program. MWI awarded annual grants for watershed projects – some grants are still available through the EPA Watershed Initiative.

MWRA --- Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) – A federal program under the Clean Water Act created to monitor, regulate and oversee discharges, such as sewage treatment plant effluent, storm water and industrial discharges, into US waterways.

Natural resources/habitat inventory – An assessment and concerted examination of the natural communities, natural amenities and ecosystems in a given area.

NCW – the North Coastal Watersheds, comprising the coastal area from Revere to Cape Ann, Essex, and Salisbury, and the rivers that drain directly to that coast.

NGO – Non-governmental organization (also NPO, not-for-profit organization).

Nitrate – A form of nitrogen readily usable by vegetation.  Excessive amounts of nitrate can disrupt ecological balances in a natural system, particularly in salt water and pose some public health threats. 

NMFS --- National Marine Fisheries Service (Northeast regulatory headquarters in Gloucester)

NMSP --- National Marine Sanctuary Program (local sanctuary is Stellwagen Bank)

Non-native plants – Plants from another region or continent introduced to an area. Non-native plants usually do not have the same checks and balances in place, as is the case with native species, and the result is often rampant invasion and excessive growth by the non-natives (hence the term “invasive species”). Areas dominated by these plants may not be useful to native species for food, shelter or habitat and usually displace the native plant community.   

Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS) –  Pollution originating from multiple and diffuse sources with varying loads.  Storm water is a significant contributor of nonpoint pollutants since it washes pollutants from impervious surfaces such as roadways.

NPDES – National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, a permitting program by EPA to control water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters. NPDES does not apply to non-point source pollution, except for stormwater permits (which is an NPS pollutant). 

NPS – National Park Service (also non-point source pollution, above).   The Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is a 9-acre National Park Service site along the Saugus River in the NCW.

Nuisance species – A plant or animal prone to causing problems in ecosystem function or to the health, enjoyment, or aesthetic value of an ecosystem.  

Nutrients, (nitrates and phosphates) – Nutrients are essential for growth in both plants and animals with nitrogen and phosphorus being significant for growth in plants. There are several common forms of nitrogen including nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia. Nitrate is a form of nitrogen easily absorbed and used by plants and is a byproduct of the oxidation of ammonia. Phosphate usually occurs in low concentrations in water and plant growth in fresh water is limited by the amount of phosphate present in the water.       

On-site Systems – An individual system for treating wastewater, commonly called a septic system.

Open Space and Recreation Plan – A short and/or long term plan compiled by a community identifying current open space and parklands with a blue print for future acquisitions, changes and enhancements based on an assessment of community needs, habitat and sensitive resources. Up to date open space plans are often a requirement for a community to access some state and federal self-help funds.

OWM --- Office of Watershed Management (Mass./DEP)

OWOW --- Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Waterways (Federal/EPA)

Phosphorus – A nutrient often serving as the limit to growth in freshwater systems.  Excessive amount of phosphorus in a water body can lead to a condition of unchecked plant growth known as eutrophication.

Rails to Trails – The conversion of inactive railroad beds and rights-of-way into trails for recreation and passage.

RFP --- Request for Proposals (also RFR, Request for Reponses, or RFQ, Request for Quotations)

Riparian zone or area – This is the land adjacent to and along a river or stream. When a riparian area has a natural vegetative cover it serves a buffer between the upland and watercourse.

River Protection Act (RPA) – An augmentation to the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act creating a 200-foot river resource area around most of the perennial rivers and streams in Massachusetts, (some densely developed communities have a 25-foot riverfront area) to better protect the quality of our river resources.  The RPA expands the scope of jurisdiction of the Wetland Protection Act.

Run-off – The water flowing off pavement, roofs, lawns and other surfaces during a storm event often carrying  pollutants washed from these surfaces.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – A federal law passed in 1974 creating a federal program to monitor and increase the safety of drinking water.  Amended in 1986 to establish new enforcement responsibilities for EPA and changes in nation-wide safeguards.

SBNMS --- Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Scenic River Protection – [Chapter 21A §2(28)] Administer by the MA Department of Environmental Management, the Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act allows for the designation or rivers or river sections as scenic and recreational rivers. Designated rivers have orders put in place to preserve and promote public safety, health and welfare, protect public and private property, wildlife, freshwater fisheries and irreplaceable wild and scenic recreational river resources.

Sedimentation and siltation – An increase, above natural levels, in the amount of sand and silt carried to a watercourse. This increase can lead to impairments including loss of habitat, loss of spawning areas, decrease in light penetration, increase in scour and an increase in bacterial and other pollutants.  

Septic systems/ on-site systems – These are decentralized waste treatment systems usually installed for an individual or cluster of houses. A septic system replaced the historic practice of direct discharges of wastes to water bodies and provides an adequate level of treatment and contributes to groundwater recharge when designed, installed and maintained properly on suitable soils.

SRWC – Saugus River Watershed Council, a watershed group based in Saugus,

SSCW – Salem Sound Coastwatch (formerly SS2000, Salem Sound 2000), a watershed group based in Salem,

State Revolving Fund (SRF) – A fund from which a community can apply for zero interest loans to assess or improve wastewater or nonpoint source pollution problems in the community.

Storm water Phase 2 Requirements – Storm water controls are found in a section of the federal Clean Water Act regulating pollutant discharges to waterways  (NPDES). Phase 2 is an effort to reduce the pollution sources entering waters via storm water runoff from medium sized municipal areas. Areas meeting the size or density requirements will have to develop and implement a storm water management plan encompassing six minimum control measures under a general permit issued under the auspices of the Clean Water Act.  

Stream Team – A group of volunteers focusing effort and energy on a specific stream or reach of a river. Stream teams may undertake one or more of a variety of initiatives such as shoreline visual surveys, river cleanups or educational outreach.

Subdivision standards – The ordinances and requirements enacted by a community to govern proposed subdivisions. Standards could involve density of development, road and sidewalk design, water use, turf management, and more.

Surface and ground water – Surface water is all water at or above the ground’s surface. Often the most concerned lies with fresh water because of the world’s heavy reliance on surface water for drinking and other uses. Ground water is the fresh water found beneath the surface of the planet in the spaces between soil particles, bedrock faults/cracks, etc. Ground water, particularly the water found in aquifers, is also an important source of drinking water.

SWIM -- Safer Waters in Massachusetts, a watershed group based in Nahant (also Nahant SWIM, Inc.),

TIE/TRE – Toxicity Identification and Toxic Reduction Evaluation. 

Title 5 – The Massachusetts regulation overseeing on-site wastewater treatment systems.  Improperly or poorly functioning on-site systems (Septic Systems) have the potential to adversely impact nearby waterways or groundwater.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – A section in the Federal Clean Water Act  requiring each state to identify water bodies that are not meeting their assigned water quality standard, ascertain the causes of impairment and determine the maximum amount of that pollutants a waterway can receive,  yet still meet water quality standards. Using this amount, a TMDL establishes the allowable pollutant loading from all contributing sources so the total, including a margin of safety, falls at or below the maximum daily allowable pollutant load.

Total Phosphorus – Phosphorus is a nutrient essential for the growth of most plants. Phosphorus can be found in both the organic and inorganic forms. Total phosphorus is a measure of both these forms.

Tributary – A stream or river flowing into a larger, mainstream river.

Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) – These are storage tanks buried beneath the surface of the ground. These tanks frequently contain gasoline (such as those at service stations or airports), home heating oil or other petroleum products. USTs are relatively inaccessible and are difficult to monitor for leaks, (LUSTs or leaking underground storage tanks) posing a threat to groundwater and surface waters.

Wastewater – Water that is used for some purpose then discharged or “wasted”.  Usually refers to the water used in households, business and industry.

Water Management Act – (MGL Chapter 21 G) The intent of the WMA is to manage water uses, maintain safe yields, and plan for future water needs and this is done through the issuance of permits to withdraw set volumes of water from ground and surface supplies. The MA Dept. of Environmental Management administers the WMA  based on decisions made by the Water Resources Commission.

Watershed – An area of land contributing runoff/drainage to a common point.  Large watershed may be divided into smaller sub-watersheds.

Wetland resource area – An area of land with saturated or nearly saturated soils most of the year serving as an interface between land-based and water-based environments. Wetlands provide many benefits including pollution attenuation, groundwater recharge, valuable plant and animal habitat. Wetlands are protected under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act as resource areas.


Glossary Prepared by the Riverways Programs, MA Department of Fish and Game. (First created 9/97, DFWELE – River ways Program, revised 12/01 and 11/02, formatted and revised 01/04, added relevant CZM list from