Municipal Officials, Interest Groups Express Concerns About the Future of Water Resources in New Hampshire
Concord, N.H. – The impact of development on water quality in the Granite State tops the list of concerns voiced in a series of public meetings being held across the state by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. "This is by no means the only concern that we’re hearing, but it has come up again and again - when we consulted the experts, when we surveyed legislators and local officials, and when we’ve opened up the floor for discussion at public meetings," according to Sarah Pillsbury, administrator of the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau at DES.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has held thirteen public meetings since mid-February to discuss work on a state water resources plan. The meetings consist of a one-hour presentation by DES officials regarding a recently completed report detailing the state’s water resources challenges, followed by approximately one hour of discussion. The report indicates that the manner of land development, rather than development itself, is one of the four top challenges facing the state with respect to water resources. DES is conducting the public meetings, with the assistance of various partner organizations and stakeholders, to inform the public and to build public involvement in the development a state water resources plan by the legislature’s Water Resources Committee.
“Population growth is part of the issue, but it’s more a matter of the pattern of development that’s contributing to the problem,” explains Sarah Pillsbury, administrator of DES’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau. “The trend has been toward larger homes, larger lots, larger lawns, and in-ground sprinkler systems.” In addition to the economic impact this is having on water systems, there’s the concern about impacts of the water withdrawals on groundwater levels and aquatic habitat during droughts, she added.
"These meetings are the third major step in the water planning process," explained Pillsbury, the primary coordinator for the water planning effort. "The report represents what the state’s water experts think; we’ve done a survey of state and local policy makers to see what they think; and now we’re looking for the public’s reaction and we want to hear what they think about the state’s water resources management challenges."
"We’re hearing a wide range of concerns at the public meetings," noted Paul Currier, administrator of DES’s Watershed Management Bureau, "but what we hear about most frequently are concerns and frustration on the part of municipal officials with the difficulty of effectively managing stormwater on the local level. At the same time, people have doubts about whether DES has adequate resources to enforce the rules and standards we already have."
Three additional meetings have been scheduled, after which the DES team will report back to legislators to determine the next steps in the water plan process:
Thursday, May 14, 7:00 PM
54 Portsmouth Street
Thursday, May 21, 5:00 PM
Squam Lakes Association Resource Center
Wednesday, May 27, 5:30 PM
North Country Council
Red Barn, SPNHF Rocks Estate
4 Christmas Lane
More information is available at http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/dwgb/wrpp/index.htm.
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