News & Press

2017 Water Source Sustainability Award is being given to the UNH and Town of Durham water system

To begin, the UNH/Durham water system is uniquely challenged given its student population dramatically increases in size at a time of year when its sources are most stressed.  In the dry summer months the system had trouble keeping up with peak water demand, specifically, in August and September when the UNH students returned to school.

Two of the system’s primary water sources, the Lamprey River and the Oyster River, routinely experience very low flows at this time of year, which, in turn, triggers water withdrawals limitations under the NHDES Instream Flow Rules.  At times, neither river could by itself supply the required demand.

Thus, the system was forced to rely on one lower producing well.  In response, the system implemented two initiatives to get ahead of their capacity issues.

  • First an ordinance was passed providing the authority for the town to set water use restrictions.  Outdoor water use restrictions were implemented when low flows corresponded with high demand.
  • Second, in 2016, after many years of planning, the Spruce Hole Aquifer Municipal Well and Artificial Recharge Project was completed.  Now, at times of high flow in the Lamprey River, water is pumped into recharge basins and ‘stored’ within the aquifer.   During the drier summer months, when river flows are low, the stored water is ‘harvested’ to supply the water system.  The system was put to the test during the drought last year and was effectively able to meet demand during peak water use months.

The UNH/Durham Water System successfully solved its water supply issue through an approach that creatively uses its existing assets differently, resulting in greater diversification of water supply sources while also helping to sustain stream flows in dry times.

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