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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

DES's Statewide Riparian Buffer Gap Analysis

Riparian buffers act as "living filters" protecting water quality within surface water, and helping to preserve our state's high-quality lakes and rivers. In New Hampshire, land conservation and a patchwork of state and local land use controls protect some riparian areas along our rivers and lakes. As part of a strategy to protect surface water used as a source of drinking water, DES's Drinking Water Source Protection Program completed the "Buffer Gap Analysis" to estimate the spatial extent of riparian buffer protection associated with land conservation, state and municipal controls that minimize non-point source pollution and preserve water quality.

The analysis takes into account the following factors: protection afforded by land conservation adjacent to rivers and lakes, the natural woodland buffer as defined under the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act formerly called the Comprehensive Shoreland Protection Act, and municipal buffers established within shoreland and wetland protection ordinances. The analysis assigns one of six different protection levels to riparian areas of rivers and lakes (see Table 1) based upon the width of buffer protection provided by adjacent land conservation, state and local regulatory controls.

Table 1
Buffer Gap Analysis
Level of Buffer Protection
Description of Buffer Protection
(conservation land is adjacent to lakes or rivers)
1. High Land Conservation > 300 ft
2. Medium to High Land Conservation > 100 ft and <= 300 ft
3. Medium CSPA Buffer Protection
4. Medium to Low Local Zoning buffer > 100 ft
5. Low Local Zoning Buffer > 50 ft and < 100 ft
6. None No Buffer Protection

Summary of Statewide Results
Measuring Riparian Buffer Protection within Water Supply Watersheds in New Hampshire (2008) Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol

Buffer protection identified in this analysis is an estimate and is not a legal or regulatory determination. Maps and geographic data (shape files) available from DES may be used as a planning tool to identify water resources that benefit from riparian buffer protection as well as those most vulnerable to future riparian development.

Questions regarding the analysis, obtaining maps or shape files produced as part of this analysis should be directed to Pierce Rigrod at or (603)-271-0688.

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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