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Did You Know?

Every time you flush the toilet you use 5-7 gallons of water.


Accrual Budgeting

An accrual method whereby monthly deposits to all appropriate funds are made in an amount sufficient to equal the total projected level of accrued expenditures for each fund thus enabling the Commission to have sufficient funds available to meet scheduled payments of all financial obligations when due.


Automatic Read to Bill. A trademark for remote meter reader interfaces manufactured by Schlumberger Industries.

Average Household

A residential customer with average water consumption of 180 gallons per day.

Backwater Valves

A gate/valve installed at the end of a drain or outlet pipe to prevent the backflow of water or wastewater.

Board of Commissioners

The three-member, non-salaried governing board of the Commission, appointed by the Mayor subject to the approval of the City Council. Commissioners serve for a term of four years.


A certificate of debt issued by a government or corporation guaranteeing periodic payments of interest and return of original investment on specified future dates.

Bond Resolution

A document that contains terms and conditions relating to the issuance and sale of Bonds and sets forth the Commission's legal obligations to bondholders.

Boston Harbor Cleanup Project

An extensive plan of activities, which the MWRA developed and is implementing in response to a federal court order to comply with the provisions of the U.S. Clean Water Act.


Billing and Engineering Support System. The Commission has customized computer programs, which provide the Commission with billing, collection, and service information about its customers.


The Boston Water and Sewer Commission.

By-pass Pipe

A temporary water main laid above ground to supply water to a property while a main is being replaced or relined.

Catch Basin

A chamber or well used with storm or combined sewers as a means of removing grit which might otherwise enter and be deposited in the sewer.

CIP (Capital Improvement Program)

A plan which identifies and estimates the nature, schedule, cost, priority and financing of long-term assets that the Commission intends to build, rehabilitate or acquire during a specific period.

Cleaning and Lining

A process to improve unlined but structurally sound, older cast iron mains. The mains are cleaned and lined with cement, while still in place to improve hydraulic capacity and extend useful life.

Collection System

The pipes, conduits, pumping stations, and appurtenances involved in the collection and transportation of wastewater and stormwater.

Contractual Funding Obligations

The incremental deposits into the various reserve accounts so that the Commission may meet the minimum funding requirements of its General Bond Resolution.

Combined Sewer

A sewer designed to receive both sanitary sewage and storm water.


Combined Sewer Overflow. Combined sewers which collect both sewage and stormwater runoff for wastewater treatment. During rainstorms, storm water runoff entering the system causes flows more than system capacity. These excess flows are discharged directly into Boston Harbor from CSO pipes. In the City of Boston, there are 46 permitted combined sewer overflow outlets.

Current Expense Budget

A financial plan, which estimates the revenues and expenses, associated with the Commission's operations for a fiscal year.

Debt Service

In a given fiscal year, the amount of money necessary to pay interest and principal on outstanding instruments of indebtedness.

Debt Coverage Requirement

The Commission is required to set rates and charges at levels sufficient so that total net revenues equal at least 125% of the Bond Debt Service Requirement during such Fiscal Year with respect to all Bonds Outstanding as of the first day of such Fiscal Year.


Department of Environment Protection. The Massachusetts agency that regulates water pollution control, water supplies, and waterways and dispenses federal and state grant funds to support these activities.

Direct Expenses

Expenses directly associated with providing water and sewer services, or of a division, department or operating unit.


A major organizational unit within the Commission, encompassing the activities and resources for providing a major service or function. A Division is further divided into departments, units, and programs.


The water conductor from the roof gutters or roof catchment to the stormdrain or other means f disposal. Also called a roof leader or roof drain.


A pipe or conduit, which conveys wastewater or stormwater.

Enabling Act

Chapter 436 of the Acts of 1977, the legislation, which established the Commission and defined its purpose and responsibilities as of August 5, 1977.


Environmental Protection Agency. The federal government agency responsible for promulgation and enforcement of environmental regulations and investigation and prosecution of infractions of non-compliance with regulations.


Actual payment for goods and services received.

Financial Statement

A set of summary documents which pertain to financial information that consist of the following: Balance Sheet, Statement of Operation, Statement of Equity, Statement of Cash Flows, Notes of Financial Statements and, in the Commission's case, Supplements, Schedules of Revenues and Expenses - Rate Basis.

Fiscal Year

A twelve-month period for which an organization plans the use of its resources. The Commission's fiscal year is January 1 through December 31.


An account established under the Commissions General Bond Resolution into which deposits and withdrawals for specific purposes are made or held.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

(1) Full-time- Employee 35 or 40 hours per week and is benefited, coded as 1.0 FTE; (2) Part-time - Employee 25 hours per week and is benefited, coded as 0.5 FTE.

General Revenue Bonds

Bonds, which are obligations of the issuer on which revenues received from operations are pledged for the payment of the principal and interest thereon.


General statements of a desired state, condition, or situation to be achieved, which may be stated from a short or long, term perspective.


A device connected to a public water main for the purpose of providing water for fire fighting or other authorized purposes.

Independent Auditor

External public accounting firm hired to audit the annual financial statements and express an opinion on those statements as to conformity with generally accepted accounting principals.

Indirect Expenses

Those costs including expenditures and accrued costs, which are not directly associated with providing services or performing activities.


Infiltration is groundwater that leaks into the sewerage system through pipe joints and defects. Inflow refers to water that enters sewers from improperly connected catch basins, sump pumps, and land and basement drains and defective manholes. Inflow also enters through improperly closed or defective harbor CSO tidegates when the tide is high.


The large pipes or culverts that convey wastewater from the localized collection system to the treatment plant. The Commission's largest interceptors are 20 foot by 15-1/2 foot concrete box culverts.

Investment Income

Income derived by investing certain fund balances in interest-yielding securities in compliance with the provisions of the Commission's General Bond Resolution and Investment Policy.


A product, either purchased as a replacement part or as new equipment, costing more than $100.00 and having a useful life greater than three years.


A trademarked, computerized hand held meter reading device used to collect and store meter reading.

Labor Costs

Direct costs of employing permanent and temporary personnel, including wages, salaries, overtime pay, benefits, and workers' compensation insurance.


An opening in a sewer provided for the purpose of permitting workers or equipment access to the sewer. A standard manhole has one outlet and one inlet.


Minority Business Enterprise/ Women Business Enterprise.


An instrument for measuring the flow of water.

Meter Pit

An underground vault enclosing a meter.


Million gallons per day.


Massachusetts Institute of Statistics and Economic Research.


A description of the fundamental purpose and major activities of a division, department, or other operational unit.


Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. An agency created by the enactment of Chapter 372 of the Acts of 1984. The MWRA is responsible for providing potable water and wastewater collection, transport, delivery, and treatment services to 60 user communities in Eastern Massachusetts.

MWRA Assessment Fund

A fund which receives monthly deposits equal to one twelfth of the annual MWRA Assessment of the Commission which is used to pay the Commission's wholesale water and sewer liability.

NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permit

A permit issued by EPA in conjunction with DEP to govern discharges into waterways.


(1) A statement defining the result-oriented activities necessary to achieve a stated goal, quantify work output or measure the quality of service; (2) a statement describing continuing targets, long and short term to achieve improvements in efficiency or productivity or establish long range plans.

Operating Account

An account in the Operating and Maintenance Fund which is used as a depository for funds to meet the ensuing months operating liabilities.

Operating Reserve Fund

A fund established by the Commission's General Bond Resolution to provide a reserve for operating contingencies. The Operating Reserve Fund is required by the Commission's bond resolution to be funded at not less than one-sixth of its annual operating expenses including the assessments from the MWRA.

Potable Water

Water fit for human consumption in conformance with the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.


(1) A sub-unit of a department which is organized as a separate administrative or functional unit; (2) an organized group of activities and the resources to carry them out, aimed at achieving related goals.

Public Water Main

The piping and associated valves, hydrants, and appurtenances installed in a public way, Commission-owned easement or private way open to public travel, for the purpose of supplying water to one or more customers or for public fire protection.

Rate Revenue

Income received during a specific period from user charges for providing water and sewer services.

Rate Revenue Requirement

The amount of revenue necessary to equal total expenses, plus revenue adjustments, less other revenues.


Funds not appropriated for payment of expenditures or that are designated for specific use.

Residential Meter

A meter two inches in size or smaller used to measure the flow of water to predominantly residential properties.

RMI (Remote Meter Interface)

A device for reading water meters using a hand held computer which is plugged into an outside box wired to the meter.

Sanitary Sewage

Liquid and water-carried human and domestic wastes from buildings, exclusive of ground, storm and surface water.

Sanitary Sewers

In a separated system, pipes that carry only domestic or commercial sanitary sewage as opposed to rainwater runoff.


A pipe or conduit that carries wastewater, either sanitary sewage or storm or surface water runoff, or both.

Sewer System

The combined Wastewater System and Storm Drainage System.

Stabilization Fund

A fund established by the Commission's Bond Resolution to mitigate the impact of extraordinary costs. The Resolution requires minimum funding of the Stabilization Fund in an amount equal to 4% of the aggregate principal amount of the Commission's outstanding variable rate bonds.

State Revolving Fund (SRF)

See Water Pollution Abatement Trust.

Storm Drain

A pipe or conduit designed to carry storm water or surface water runoff.

Storm Drainage System

Storm drains, tidegates, flow regulators, catch basins, storm water pumping stations and appurtenant facilities.

Storm Sewers

Storm drains or storm drainage system.

Storm Water

Any water resulting from rainfall or other precipitation that runs off surfaces during or after a storm.

Strategic Goal

The long range plans and direction of each division, department or program of the Commission.

Tactical Goal

A one time improvement and/or enhancement to a technical or service oriented process. Unaccounted for Water: Difference between amount of water purchased from the MWRA and the amount of water sold. The difference is caused by system losses, leakage, unbilled public usage, and water used during construction projects.


The dollar and/or percentage difference between two sets of figures.


The spent water of a community, which may be a combination of the liquid and water-carried domestic or industrial wastes from buildings, together with any groundwater and storm water that may be present.

Wastewater System

The totality of the devices, equipment or works used in transportation, pumping, storage, treatment, recycling, or reclamation of wastewater or in the disposal of the effluent.

Water Demand

A projection of aggregate water usage for the City of Boston, which is expressed in million gallons per day.

Water Pollution Abatement Trust

A funding mechanism created to administer the Water Pollution Abatement Revolving Fund (State Revolving Fund) established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide funding for water pollution abatement projects in Massachusetts, incorporating federal and state loans to local governmental units.

Water Service Pipe

The connection, piping and associated valves and appurtenances that extend from a public water main to a building or property for the purpose of supplying water.


A dam built to direct or back up the flow of water.