BEDFORD, N.H. -- State environmental experts say changing the way New Hampshire residents use water is vital to ensuring parts of the state don't run dry.
"There is an acute awareness today that we will eventually run up against water availability limits," said Rick Chormann, a hydrogeologist with the state Water Supply and Engineering Bureau. "Water is taken as a given. The presumption is that there is enough water to support development, but we are seeing otherwise."
Bud Rollins, chairman of the New Hampshire Well Water Board, said Bedford, Amherst and Milford are among the worst off communities in the state. New Hampshire wells average about 300 feet deep, he said. Bedford wells average about 500 feet.
"A lot of people there have large homes and we now are reaching a point where we are dewatering a ledge," Rollins said. "We also use so much more water today -- in swimming pools, hot tubs, and the biggest use is on the green lawns folks like to have."
State geologist Gene Boudette said this consumption rate can't go on forever. Communities such as Bedford are dewatering the aquifer that provides water to most of its homes. During peak usage periods, many wells already go dry.
In Bedford, almost all water is pumped from wells drilled into the aquifer deep within the bedrock. The water these wells provide is not without limit, Boudette said.
"Bedrock wells are far more sensitive than sand and gravel wells," Boudette said. "A bedrock aquifer is like a great horizontal tank, capable of producing a certain amount of water at a certain rate, depending on what they are being fed from."
But Bedford officials aren't waiting for the water to run out before acting. In 1995, Town Manager Artie Roberson formed a water committee to develop a long-term plan to provide public water to the town. The plan would cost more than $10 million and includes a 500,000 gallon above-ground reservoir that would be filled with water provided by the Manchester Water Works.
"As development occurs, we're putting more neighborhoods on community water systems," Roberson said. "Every time we take care of a specific area, it is then possible to link one area to the other. And with developers paying for the cost of water, it saves the town money." (AP)
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