Water Use and Withdrawal

Regulating certain groundwater and surface water withdrawals to protect our water resources.

In New Hampshire, water use can be broken down to 19 major categories. Some types of water uses are consumptive, such as water consumed by humans and livestock, water incorporated into products, and water used for irrigation. Other types of water uses are non-consumptive use, which means water remains in its environment or is taken out of its environment and put directly back in, such as in the case of a run of river hydropower plant or a recirculating geothermal well. Groundwater, surface waters such as lakes and rivers, the ocean, and transfers from other wholesale water providers all serve as sources of water for water users in New Hampshire. 

Withdrawing surface water or groundwater for use in New Hampshire is governed by common law, statutes that provide water rights to particular entities, and rules that NHDES administers. The regulations administered by NHDES help to ensure that the uses of the state’s water resources are understood and do not adversely interfere with other water uses or water resources. A list of related NHDES programs and requirements include:

  • Water Use Registration and Reporting Program (WURR) – Requires water users withdrawing or discharging over 140,000 gallons of water per week or over 600,000 gallons in any 30 days to register the water use and all sources and destinations of water with NHDES, as well as report monthly withdrawals, transfers and discharges on a quarterly or yearly basis.
  • Water Quality Certification Program – Water users proposing to withdraw or divert water from a surface water in an amount that triggers the WURR reporting requirements are required to obtain certification for the withdrawal or diversion, with the exception of those water uses that were in operation prior to September 5, 2008. The water user must submit an application with sufficient information to allow NHDES to determine if the proposed withdrawal or diversion will comply with surface water quality standards, which includes protection of designated water uses such as aquatic life and recreational uses.
  • Instream Flow Program – Develops management plans to protect instream flows for the protection of fish, recreation and stream bank species. The planning includes working with water users within watersheds of designated rivers, which trigger the reporting requirements of WURR, to implement water conservation plans and to take specific actions during extended low-flow and drought conditions.
  • Large Groundwater Withdrawal Program – A water user seeking to withdraw 57,600 gallons or more in any 24-hour period from a well installed after July 1998 is required to obtain a large groundwater permit. The water user, typically a public water supplier, bottled water manufacturer or golf course, must complete an extensive testing process, including monitoring nearby surface and groundwater levels for adverse impacts.
  • Water Conservation Program – Since May 2005, certain water users required to submit an application to NHDES for approval of a withdrawal or discharge are also required to implement a water conservation plan containing water conservation best management practices. Examples of water users required to implement water conservation plans include community water systems; water users seeking approval for a large groundwater withdrawal, such as a golf course, agricultural operation, or water bottling plant; and industrial users seeking a surface water withdrawal for cooling processes.

Major Water User Types       

Agriculture Power: Biomass
Aquaculture Power: Fossil
Bottled Water Power: Geothermal
Bulk Water Hauler Power: Hydropower
Commercial Power: Nuclear
Industrial Snowmaking
Institutional Wastewater Treatment
Irrigator Water Supplier