Rivers and Lakes
Monitoring and reporting on the condition of New Hampshire’s surface waters.
The primary factor that impacts the water quality in rivers and lakes is what drains from the land into the water. All of the land that drains to a particular body of water is called its watershed. Within every watershed, water runs to the lowest point on that landscape - a stream, river, lake, estuary or ocean. On its way, the water travels across farm fields, forestland, parking lots, highways, city streets and backyards. Watershed management incorporates monitoring, public participation, planning and restoration.
NHDES has multiple programs responsible for monitoring the water quality in the state’s lake and rivers, and protecting these water bodies. NHDES also relies on citizen science volunteers to fulfill its mission.
Protecting our natural and cultural resources
The Rivers Management and Protection Program strives to protect the outstanding natural and cultural resources associated with the designated rivers of New Hampshire.
The Lakes Management and Protection Program strives to protect the health and water quality of lakes and ponds while balancing its multiple uses.
Monitoring the quality of our rivers, streams, lakes and ponds
New Hampshire has over 800 lakes and ponds and approximately 19,000 miles of rivers and streams. NHDES is responsible for monitoring the quality of these waterbodies and reporting on their condition. There are several well-established programs designed to accomplish these objectives.
Volunteer Lake Assessment Program
The Volunteer Lake Assessment Program (VLAP) engages citizen volunteers to monitor lake water quality and play an active role in watershed management through science, training, reporting, community education and outreach.
Ensuring we have enough water to support people and wildlife
The Instream Flow Program ensures that New Hampshire’s 19 designated rivers have enough water to support the needs of people and aquatic life.
Water Quality Standards
Every two years, NHDES produces an Integrated Report describing the quality of New Hampshire’s surface waters and an analysis of how well the waters provide for the protection and propagation of a balanced population of shellfish, fish and wildlife, and allow recreational activities in and on the water. Some waters are categorized as impaired and require the creation of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL): the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive or contain while maintaining the water quality standard for its designated use. Learn more about water quality assessments!
The Water Quality Standards Advisory Committee exists to facilitate public input, solicit advice and provide a forum for the discussion of focused surface water quality standards issues.
Water Quality Certification
The purpose of the Water Quality Certification program is to protect surface water quality and uses (such as swimming and aquatic life) by ensuring compliance with the state’s surface water quality standards.