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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
PUBLIC GOVERNMENT BUSINESS A to Z LIST

Zoning Laws and Land Use Controls

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Cities and towns can pass zoning laws to protect groundwater and public water supply wells by restricting certain districts (residential, retail/commercial, or industrial) from areas near water supply wells. Over 75 New Hampshire communities have chosen to create such zoning districts that prevent or restrict industrial and businesses in important aquifer areas.

Some have argued that by limiting what people can do with their land, the government is "taking" the land. Court rulings have consistently shown that while there are limits to how far zoning can go, it is still a good way to protect the public from the wrong land use in the wrong place.

While zoning is a good tool to use in protecting groundwater, it doesn't take care of every situation. First, while zoning can prevent new threats, it can not eliminate existing threats, because existing uses are "grand fathered" when zoning laws take effect. Second, some communities may want to allow development to take place in aquifer areas, but to review development on a site-specific basis.

Below are several good examples of local groundwater/aquifer protection zoning ordinance. They include a number of the provisions suggested within the DES Model Groundwater Protection Ordinance (2006). However, they also include other provisions developed by local planners based upon local development conditions and trends.

 

 

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