The Association to Preserve Cape Cod releases their 2023 State of the Waters report

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod releases their 2023 State of the Waters report

How Healthy are the Waters of Cape Cod? In Summary...

● Cape Cod’s saltwater embayments and freshwater ponds are suffering from the negative effects of too many nutrients.
● Water quality is in decline due to pollution from septic systems, stormwater and fertilizers.
● The quality of our drinking water supplies remained excellent or good.

The following is CEO Andrew Gottlieb's comments on The Association to Preserve Cape Cod's fifth annual State of the Waters: Cape Cod report. It went live this morning. Check it out at and see what the latest data tells us about water quality. Cape Cod continues to experience a significant number of coastal embayments and freshwater ponds with unacceptable water quality, while the quality of the Cape’s public water supplies, for the most part, remains excellent.

The Cape’s water quality woes are primarily due to excessive nutrients that adversely impact groundwater, freshwater ponds, and coastal embayments. The greatest source of nutrients comes from inadequately treated wastewater from septic systems. Stormwater runoff and fertilizers are additional sources of nutrients impacting the Cape’s waterbodies. (my comment - the fact that home owners, business owners and towns continue to utilize excessive amounts of fertilizer to create unnatural landscapes on the Cape is just amazing to me).

This year’s report card shows that, despite a recent ramping up of efforts by some towns to reverse the impacts from decades of nutrient pollution in water bodies across the Cape, it’s still too early in most instances to see signs of improvement.

The number of embayments this year with acceptable water quality remained the same as last year at five embayments—only 10 percent of those graded. No embayments graded as unacceptable in the previous year improved to having acceptable water quality this year.

All embayments on Nantucket Sound had unacceptable water quality, as did all embayments in Buzzards Bay with the exception of Quissett Harbor. Pleasant Bay and Nauset Estuary received unacceptable grades. Cape Cod Bay continued to have the largest number of embayments—four—with acceptable water quality.

Over one-third—37 percent—of all graded ponds were determined to have unacceptable water quality, which amounted to 52 of the 139 graded ponds. The percentage of ponds with unacceptable water quality has remained fairly consistent over the past five years.

Nineteen public water supplies received an “Excellent” water quality grade, meaning that they met all state and federal drinking water standards. Two public water suppliers, the Buzzards Bay Water District and the Sandwich Water District, were graded as having “Good” water quality.

Although the report shows that Cape Cod’s coastal embayments and freshwater ponds continue to have significant water quality problems, the report indicates there is reason to have some optimism about the future. The financial resources, regulatory requirements and local politics are all now, at long last, aligned and most towns are bringing water quality improvement projects to town voters very eager and ready to support investments in cleaner water. The unprecedented number of projects coming before spring town meetings is a good sign that we will soon begin to see improving water quality. It is up to all of us to keep our towns focused on moving forward with water quality improvement projects and to show up at spring town meetings to vote yes on all the projects proposed for financing.

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