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Providence 02908

About the RI WRB

About Us

The Board

Powers, Duties and Regulatory Authority

RI Gen. Laws §46-15 et seq. (1956)

The RI Water Resources Board and the RI Water Resources Board Corporate have broad authority in planning, developing, and managing public water supplies. The combined agencies work closely with the RI Dept. of Administration, Statewide Planning Program, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management, the RI Dept. of Health, and the RI Public Utilities Commission to develop and refine policies affecting water resources, including planning for emergency supply.

The RI Water Resources Board and the RI Water Resources Board Corporate are defined by statute as agencies which can acquire lands, water rights, and easements for all water supply needs; design and/or construct water supply facilities; lease, sell or effect mergers of water supply systems; and loan or borrow money for water supply.

If necessary, the agencies can “take” additional water from an existing water supply source or develop a new water source to supply water beyond the corporate or municipal limits of an existing water district.

The agencies accomplish many objectives working in tandem with the twenty-eight major public water suppliers in the state.

History of the Board

The Rhode Island Water Resources Coordinating Board was formed in 1964 for the explicit purpose to acquire and protect 8600 acres in West Greenwich and Coventry for the proposed Big River Reservoir Water Supply Project. In 1967, under Governor John Chafee’s leadership, the agency was renamed the RI Water Resources Board and empowered with broad legislative authority over statewide water supply. Shortly thereafter in 1970, the RI Water Resources Board Corporate was established as a water facilities and infrastructure financing arm of the Water Resources Board. Over the years, the two agencies have invested millions of dollars in scientific investigations, municipal water supply infrastructure design and construction, watershed protection, strategic planning, conservation education and policy development for public drinking water supply.

In 1993, the General Assembly declared that the Big River Management Area would be considered “Open Space” until needed for drinking water supply. During this decade, several other major engineering projects were undertaken across the state in which the agency played a significant role. Those most familiar to the public include the East Bay Bristol County Pipeline and the Providence Project. The Providence Project consists of the construction of storage and pumping facilities, and modifications to the distribution system for the new Fruit Hill Extra High Service System, located in the Towns of North Providence and Smithfield.

In 1997, the Water Resources Board assumed water supply system planning duties previously carried out by the RI Dept. of Environmental Management. In 1999, legislation was passed clarifying the powers and duties of the agency regarding its sole water allocation authority. The 1999 law also provided for a means to diversify the Board by adding two new members. The agency was granted authority to investigate sources of groundwater in the Big River Management Area after a determination that exploration or development of groundwater for future supply was indeed needed.

The Board has used effective adaptive management strategies to address statewide challenges to water resource management. The prolonged drought in 2001 signaled the need for the Board to form a Drought Steering Committee and develop a new State Guide Plan Element #724, RI Drought Management Plan. During that same year, the World Trade Towers tragedy on Sept. 11th pressed the Board to divert resources toward increased security of water resource infrastructure and information. Today, the Water Resources Board embraces an integrated water management approach that considers water and wastewater, water quantity and water quality, and provides guidance for local land use decisions.

Board Membership

Representation per Statute (46-15.1-2)
Representation General Description
A person who is actively engaged in the agricultural business, preferably an owner and/or operator of an agricultural business, with respect to which appointment the governor shall give due consideration to the recommendation of the Rhode Island Agricultural Council established pursuant to the provisions of chapter 3 of title 2
Agriculture
A representative of a conservation organization, with respect to which appointment the governor shall give due consideration to the recommendation of the Environment Council of Rhode Island
Conservation
A professional with expertise in geology, and/or hydrology
Geology/Hydrology
A professional with expertise in engineering with relevance to water supply
Water Supply Engineer
A professional with expertise in financial planning and/or investment
Financial Planning/Investment
A professional with expertise in land and/or watershed management
Land/Watershed Management
Representative of a public water system that withdraws more than one hundred thousand (100,000) gallons per day, primarily from a surface water supply
Public Surface Water System
Representative of a public water system that withdraws more than one hundred thousand (100,000) gallons per day, primarily from a ground water supply
Public Groundwater System
Representative of a water user that withdraws more than one hundred thousand (100,000) gallons per day
Large Water User
Members of the general public
General Public
Members of the general public
General Public
Director, Department of Environmental Management
RIDEM
Director, Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation
RIEDC
Associate Director, Division of Planning within the Department of Administration
Planning
Director, Department of Health
Health

Board Corporate

The Rhode Island Water Resources Board Corporate ("Board Corporate") is a legal entity separate from the Board. It is a body politic and corporate and a public instrumentality of the state having a distinct legal existence from the state and not constituting a department of state government.

The Board Corporate is charged with establishing water supply facilities, leasing those facilities to cities, towns, districts and other municipal, quasi-municipal or private corporations or companies engaged in the water supply business in Rhode Island, contracting for use of such facilities, or selling the water derived from, carried by or processed in such facilities. Board members are also members of the Board Corporate.