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March 22nd is World Water Day!

Happy World Water Day! World Water Day is observed globally each year on March 22 to promote the responsible use of water and access to safe water for everyone. While water awareness looks different depending on where you are in the world, Cape Cod faces a particularly challenging water crisis due to the uniqueness of our geography, the fragility of our ecosystems, and the sensitivity of our environment to human influence. There is no doubt that Cape Cod’s waters in all of their forms are well loved…but do we love them enough to do what’s needed to protect them from further degradation?

Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment is committed to helping solve Cape Cod’s various water challenges. We’re tackling the problem from several different avenues. As part of our commitment in preserving our sole source aquifer, the County offers a diverse array of programs and services such as research and education, water quality monitoring and testing, financial assistance with septic system upgrades and/or sewer connections and supporting municipalities in water quality initiatives through ARPA funding – all with the goal of protecting public health and support the environmental sustainability of our coastal community. 

The Barnstable County Water Quality Laboratory

The Barnstable County Water Quality Laboratory is Cape Cod’s very own drinking water and environmental water testing laboratory. The lab provides monitoring and analysis of the Cape’s public and private drinking water supplies, groundwater and surface water sources, beaches (check out our Beach Monitoring Program), swimming pools and spas, and even wastewater! The Laboratory’s latest focus is on offering in-house PFAS analysis for local water departments and private well owners.

Barnstable County Department of Health & Environment’s Wastewater Division

The Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment has an ever-expanding Wastewater Division dedicated solely to addressing Cape Cod’s wastewater challenges. The Division encompasses the following:

The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC): one of only a few testing facilities in the U.S. where academic institutions and private industry alike are able to use diverted untreated wastewater from Joint Base Cape Cod to simulate residential wastewater influent. This allows for the active investigation and development of products that focus on nitrogen reduction to protect sensitive marine resources.

Cape Cod AquiFund provides an effective and efficient means of financially assisting area residents with often cost-prohibitive yet essential septic system requirements.

The Innovative/Alternative (I/A) Septic System Tracking Program assists towns with monitoring their I/A septic systems at no cost. An internet database collects inspection reports and effluent monitoring results, and it also allows regulators the ability to track compliance for 3,600 I/A systems across the Cape, Islands and Southeastern Massachusetts.

Just like a sewer utility manages a community’s wastewater treatment plant, a Responsible Management Entity (RME) is the support system for I/A systems. An RME is a septic utility program that provides management assistance to ensure residential Innovative/Alternative septic systems are functioning as they should to protect our health and environment. Caring for these systems and collecting data on their performance provides regulators and homeowners alike with confidence in the ability of these technologies to be used in the improvement of water quality in our region.

Other Barnstable County Programs and Initiatives

Check out other Barnstable County Departments for other important programs and initiatives that bring awareness to and aid in the protection of our water resources:

The Cape Cod Cooperative Extension’s Marine and Aquaculture Resources

The Cape Cod Cooperative Extension’s Household Hazardous Waste Program

The Cape Cod Commission’s Freshwater Initiative and Water Resources Projects

The Barnstable County Dredge

What Can I do?

  • Participate in Americorps Cape Cod’s Annual Canal Cleanup on April 20th, 2024! for more information, visit Annual Signature Events – Barnstable County (
  • Organize your own beach cleanup! Get Beach Clean-up Tips – Barnstable County (
  • LEARN! The best way to support the protection of Cape Cod’s water resources is to learn as much as you can about our geography, ecosystems, and water resources challenges. Here are a few ways to do that:
    • Listen to the One Drop Leads to Another Podcast on Spotify! One Drop Leads to Another is a project about water connections – the connections between and across species, people, places and times. Each podcast episode features guests from a variety of backgrounds and professions that have water stories to tell, placing emphasis on how they are all interrelated. The idea is to highlight the concept that one drop of water always leads to another, and that the actions we take today, good and bad, trickle down into the water of tomorrow.
    • Subscribe to the The Alternative: MASSTC’s weekly newsletter to find out about upcoming events that you can participate in as a water warrior!

Learn More: World Water Day

World Water Day | United Nations

World Water Day 2024: bridging divides through water cooperation (

World Water Day | UNESCO