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

Overview

New Hampshire is blessed with numerous lakes, ponds, and rivers, as well as valuable groundwater. Under guidance from the NH Water Council and the NH Wetlands Council, DES’s Water Division conducts a variety of programs designed to ensure the protection of these waters.

Public water supplies are protected by overseeing the operation of about 125 municipal systems, 500 residential systems (condominiums, apartment buildings, and mobile home parks), and over 1,100 systems that provide water for restaurants, motels, and campgrounds. Consistent with criteria of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the Water Division conducts engineering reviews of all proposals to develop or expand public water supplies. Additionally, it conducts regular water quality sampling, water facility inspections, facility operator licensing and educational programs, and technical assistance. It also administers a source water protection program that includes a grant program for protecting lands surrounding water supplies.

Wastewater control activities also comprise a large portion of the division's operations. It oversees an extensive loan and state grant program for wastewater treatment facilities, reviews the engineering designs for such facilities, and ensures their proper construction and operation.

Since the 1970s, the agency has been involved with sewage treatment projects amounting to hundreds of million dollars in federal and state grant money. These projects have resulted in the cleanup of hundreds of miles of water courses and thousands of acres of surface water. One notable project alone, the Winnipesaukee River Basin Program, has been responsible for water quality improvements on a regular basis involving eight communities. This DES-operated wastewater treatment program serves as a model in state and local cooperative pollution control efforts.

Other water quality activities include a septic system program involving design reviews, licensing of designers and installers, and inspections. Groundwater protection activities are also conducted, including various planning and hydrogeological studies, and a statewide wellhead protection program has been initiated.

DES protects the state’s surface water through its active lakes and rivers monitoring programs and its biological and chemical analyses of rivers and water bodies. During the year, DES conducts thousands of water analyses on state waters, including those involving drinking water and industrial and municipal wastewater effluents. The Water Division also oversees lake and river volunteer monitoring programs, a public beach and swimming pool inspection program, and an acid rain monitoring program.

The state's precious wetlands are protected by the Water Division too, through a comprehensive permitting process and enforcement activities.

Further water quality protection activities include programs such as erosion control measures required for construction, agriculture, and logging activities, as well as successful permit programs regarding industrial wastewater pretreatment and municipal discharges. Reducing pollution from non-point sources is an area of increasing importance. The division also surveys and reports on the quality of over 14,000 miles of rivers every two years, and it conducts a variety of educational activities.

Managing and planning for water resources for the present and future generations of our state is another role of DES's Water Division. This involves construction, maintenance, and operation of state-owned dams and other water conservation projects throughout the state. Such projects enhance the state's economic welfare, create recreational benefits, and provide flood control.

DES also conducts inspections of dams that may affect public safety. It further maintains 230 state-owned dams, 100 of which it operates. At twenty sites that produce electrical energy, the Water Division has contractual agreements with lessees and water users.

Water resources management also involves essential planning activities. Notable among the division's planning efforts are its aquifer mapping program conducted with the US Geological Survey, its well inventory program involving a computerized data base, and its water user registration and reporting program begun in 1987. All these data gathering efforts are components of the division's comprehensive analysis of water availability, necessary for making predictions regarding present and future water uses.

Attached to the Water Division is the NH Water Well Board which licenses well contractors and pump installers.




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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