U.S. Water News Online
DOVER, N.H. -- The state's population is expected to
increase 25 percent by 2025, mostly in the southeast, and that could
test the region's water resources, experts said.
While the state is water-rich, excessive withdrawals could cause
shortages in particular areas, said Brandon Kernen, supervisor of the
Source Water Protection Program at the state Department of
The best way to protect drinking water supplies is through land
conservation, but increasingly, communities are also passing laws to
protect groundwater resources, he said.
"It has really only been since the late 1980s that the state and
municipalities have seriously addressed source water protection,"
Momentum built when the state experienced dry periods between 1999
and 2002, and now the state gets high marks for its water management,
Denise Hart, of Save Our Groundwater, which has fought an uphill
battle to prevent bottling company USA Springs from withdrawing more
than 300,000 gallons of water daily, disagreed.
"We may have good laws on the books, but in this case they didn't
work," Hart said. "It comes down to how they are administered and how
they are enforced."
More than half the state's population now depends on public water
supplies, but only about 11 percent of critical water supplies are
protected from development through conservation easements, Kernen
said. Meanwhile, development has led to thousands of new private
A law that took effect in August regulates groundwater withdrawals
of 57,600 gallons or more per day. The bill says the state is
responsible for protecting water resources and gives towns and cities
more input on permits for large withdrawals, said state Sen. Dick
Green, a Rochester Republican and the chief sponsor.
Despite controversy about bottled water firms, including USA
Springs, Kernen called their impact "insignificant."
Every bottled water facility application must now get a zoning
variance from the town or city where it is located, so a master plan
backed by appropriate zoning could give municipalities "complete
control of the fate" of such projects, he said.
Problems with water quality have a much greater effect on the
availability of drinking water, he said.
"If you contaminate the water, it's unusable," he said.
Mike Russo, president of Neighborhood Guardians, said large
groundwater withdrawals by bottling companies can cause contamination
by drawing pollution across a watershed.
"People who are close to the wells are being impacted," Russo
said. "You shouldn't be allowed to affect your neighbors like that."
Tom Ballestero, a University of New Hampshire professor, was a
consultant for Nottingham on the USA Springs project. He said towns
withdraw more water than bottled water companies, but the companies
ship the water elsewhere, so it is not returned to the ecosystem.
That can exacerbate a limited supply, he said.
"We have times, in certain locations, when demand exceeds supply,"
he said. "Everyone tries to get their share and as much as they can."
Tom Mack, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said
groundwater aquifers on the Seacoast are nearly at capacity. Now
people are drilling their wells into bedrock, but those reserves
aren't as easily replenished by rain and snow.
"As the population is growing, we need more and more water ... and
we're finding people are using more water per person," he said. "We
probably will need to manage the resources for the future. It may be
tough ensuring that everyone has water."
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