Government-Supported Public Participation
Originally formed in 1977 to review a proposed diversion of the Connecticut River for water supply to the metropolitan Boston area, WSCAC represents an unusual approach for engaging citizen participation in water resource policy decisions.
WSCAC advises the MWRA and the Department of Conservation and Recreation on water conservation and watershed protection strategies. The MWRA has implemented leak repair and demand management programs, avoiding the need for river diversion.
WSCAC's current focus is water quality - source protection and management of the watersheds, reservoirs and distribution system.
WSCAC members regard the following as the most important lessons learned:
Active citizen participation is a good investment, ensuring publicly supportable, cost effective and environmentally sound solutions.
Informed citizen input on major policy decisions requires an independent, full-time staff answerable only to the citizens' committee.
To gain credibility, citizen input that includes diverse points of view must be sought.
Effective citizen input entails responsibilities for both the citizens' committee and the affected agencies. The committee must engage in pertinent, factual and thoughtful criticism of the agency, and agency officials must respond receptively and professionally to input
Citizen committees need to communicate with the public as well as with the agencies they advise.
WSCAC's membership is diverse and provides an ongoing source of public input for the MWRA and state agencies. The MWRA supports WSCAC with funding for office space, expenses, and a staff selected by and answerable to the committee. The committee meets monthly at the MWRA facilities in Southborough.