U.S. Water News Online
CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire's drought shows an immediate
need to conserve water, but the state also needs to put conservation
policies into place to ensure adequate supplies are available in the
future, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has told a Senate committee.
``The current drought is focusing public attention on the need to
conserve water now, but the importance of protecting our public water
supplies will not go away when this crisis passes,'' Shaheen
testified at an Environment Committee hearing.
Shaheen testified for a bill that requires the state to develop
and mandate conservation measures for new public water supplies. She
noted that 83 percent of water systems require little or no
``That should give us all pause that we've got to do a better
job,'' she said.
Under the bill, the state could require many large water users to
adhere to ``best management practices,'' which are not spelled out in
the bill but include promoting low-flow water fixtures and other
Shaheen also testified for a second bill that allows the governor
to declare an emergency and order protections for public water
supplies. It also authorizes the state to require regional water
hookups in emergencies or upon public request and provides some state
funding toward hookup costs.
Shaheen said the state needs regional systems not just to provide
backups to areas hard hit by drought, but in the event of a terrorist
attack on supplies.
``It has become even more important as we look at the dangers
post-Sept. 11,'' the date of the terrorist attacks on New York and
Washington, she said.
The two bills are part of a three-bill package Shaheen is
proposing to address concerns over water availability and use. The
Senate passed the third bill last month. It subjects large commercial
groundwater withdrawals to new standards.
No one testified against either bill and the committee voted after
the hearing to recommend passage of the conservation measure. The
committee held off voting on a recommendation on the hookup bill
until an amendment is prepared.
Senate Democratic Leader Beverly Hollingworth, the bill's prime
sponsor, said the state needs as many interconnections as possible,
particularly on the seacoast. She said water systems along the coast
could be joined from Rochester to Seabrook.
Others said many small systems built by developers in rural areas
could benefit from being tied to larger, municipal systems.
But Thomas Fargo, a hydrologist from Dover, said before regional
hookups are completed, the state should consider the demand placed on
the watersheds feeding the different systems.
He pointed out that USA Springs, which proposes withdrawing
439,000 gallons a day for bottled water, is being subjected to
greater state oversight than a 300,000-gallon-a-day commitment from
the public supply made by Portsmouth to a local business. Both affect
the same watershed.
Fargo said the total draw on a watershed should be considered in
A similar concern was raised about a provision in the bill that
allows water systems to charge a 15 percent premium without getting
approval from state regulators if they connect new users outside
their system. The premium is intended to be an incentive to
developing a regional system.
Rep. Janet Wall, D-Madbury, said Portsmouth is using water from
Madbury, but the bill doesn't protect Madbury residents from being
charged a premium if they hook up to Portsmouth's system and, in
effect, get their own water back.
Fargo also said reluctance by some communities to connect with
others may be due to concern it would lead to sprawl.
Charles Niebling of the Society for Protection of New Hampshire
Forests suggested amending the bill so local planning would be
considered in approving connections. When water lines extend into
rural areas, development is likely to follow, he said.
``This is good water policy, but is it good land use policy,'' he
The state estimates interconnections could cost $20 million during
the next five years. State grants would pay a fraction of the costs.
Public systems also would spend another $100 million over that period
for source improvements, the state estimates.
Bill Hounsell, representing water districts in the Conway area,
said the state grants would help local systems attract federal aid
toward expansion costs.
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