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Our Water Problem

Cape Cod’s environment drives its economy. Coastal water quality is impacted by nitrogen from on-site septic systems, which are the primary means for wastewater disposal in the region. In 2015, the Area Wide Water Quality Management Plan was certified by Governor Charlie Baker and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, providing a new framework for improving Cape Cod water quality.

The Science

On Cape Cod, nitrogen enters the natural water system from nearly every home, business, and roadway. This water system transports nitrogen both above and below ground, through watersheds, to the sea. Enclosed coastal systems, such as embayments and estuaries, naturally process this nutrient, but when healthy amounts of nitrogen are exceeded, water quality problems occur.

The Solutions

Tools developed by the Cape Cod Commission help communities overcome hurdles associated with taking action. They make scenario planning more transparent, community engagement more inclusive, regulations more flexible, and financing easier.

The Cape Cod Water Quality Plan

With $3 million from the state, the Cape Cod Commission has updated the region’s water quality plan, creating a unified program that resolves scientific, political and financial barriers by bringing communities together.

Additional information about Cape Cod’s water system, watersheds, and tools available to assist communities is available at

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