When the Brewster Conservation Trust is on the hunt for new land parcels to preserve, the first question we ask ourselves is, “Will this acquisition help to keep our water clean to drink?”
Since all drinking water, whether from Town or private wells, draws from one underground source, the connection between groundwater purity and undeveloped open space above it is clear. More houses, more pavement, more lawn chemicals, more septic systems draining through the sandy soils reaching our water supply is not a good thing. When we instead acquire new protected open space near the Town’s wells, we can avoid all those potential contaminants. This “risk-avoidance” is the best investment we can make in setting land aside from development. It is better not to cause a problem than to need to clean it up later.
Zone II is defined as land within the area of contribution to a municipal wellfield. The Town’s water planning report estimates that 40 percent of our wells’ Zone II has not been protected as conservation land, so there is plenty of work to do. Recently, BCT leaders met with the Brewster Water Commission to show parcel-by-parcel which acres are still most important to preserve in the Freemans Way wellfields. We found that there are 214 acres in this southeast quadrant of Brewster that are high priority for protection, worth more than $9 million. Between 55 and 80 new housing units could be built on those acres—that represents a lot of new nitrogen and other pollutants to add to our water table.
We won’t be able to buy all of those priority parcels, of course, but know this: we are reaching out to all of their owners in hopes of attracting their interest to work with us on conservation options. The slow, quiet process of landowner cultivation is what BCT does best. Sometimes it takes years, but we have seen it pay off.
For example, in the past three years, BCT and the Town have collaborated to purchase four parcels near this wellfield: 36 upland acres for total cost of $1,250,000. These land buys prevented 13 new homes from being built near the Town wells. Funding sources included the Water Dept., Town Community Preservation Fund, a State grant, BCT, private grants and donations from BCT members.
Buying Cape Cod real estate is never inexpensive, but the public investment is worth it. Brewster’s aggressive open space acquisition program has resulted in tens of millions of dollars in capital outlays. But our water planning suggests that we just may avoid the hundreds of millions in wastewater treatment facilities that our neighboring towns are now facing.
We’ve all heard it: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And it certainly works when it comes to clean water for Brewster. We hope BCT members will always rally to the cause when the Town and BCT seek to preserve more aquifer lands.
We are not now asking you to donate for just one parcel. We are looking for you to help us keep our ponds and drinking water pure. If you live within Zone II, if you know of Zone II property that might be for sale or donation, we would like to talk with you. Help keep the Brewster we love and save tax dollars at the same time.