News & Press

UNH/Durham Water System Uses New Production Well and Artificial Recharge to Help Mitigate Drought Impacts to Available Water Resources

Insignificant snow melt in the spring of 2016 and ongoing drought conditions is having adverse impacts on the availability of water resources in the Southeastern New Hampshire.  As a result, many municipalities in the seacoast region have imposed water use restrictions and are implementing detailed water use management plans of their available the water sources.  Despite these efforts, a number of municipalities have been forced to restrict or eliminate their use of surface water supplies and are closely monitoring water levels in the unconsolidated aquifers which comprise their available water resources.  

The UNH/Durham Water System (UDWS), located in Durham, New Hampshire, has historically relied upon water resources obtained from the Lamprey and Oyster Rivers and a water supply well located within an unconsolidated aquifer in Lee, New Hampshire.  Due to the recent drought conditions, the UDWS has withdrawn insignificant amounts of water from the Lamprey River since late June because the River flow has largely been below the minimum rate at which water withdrawals can be made (i.e., 16 cubic feet per second (cfs)).  In addition, only minor withdrawals can be made from the Oyster River.

Therefore, the UDWS has had to rely almost entirely on groundwater resources to meet the water demands of the Town of Durham and the University of New Hampshire.  Fortunately, due to the foresight of those at the UDWS, Emery & Garrett Groundwater Investigations, LLC was contracted several years ago to develop and permit a new water supply well and an artificial recharge system in the Spruce Hole Aquifer to supplement the system’s available water resources during peak demand and severe drought conditions.

The new groundwater production well and AR system became critical components in meeting the UDWS’s water needs this summer and early fall. Water withdrawn from the Lamprey River was pumped into two AR basins during the spring of 2016 to help replenish the aquifer.  Since then, more than 25 million gallons have been pumped from the new production well to help meet the water use demands of the UDWS during this drought.  This represents approximately 48% of the total water resources used by the UDWS between late June and early September.

The additional yield capacity provided by the new production well and Artificial Recharge system have been of particular importance during the start of the academic year at UNH, when the UDWS’s water demand increases from around 0.6 million gallons per day (mgd) to over 1 mgd.  Without this additional new capacity, the returning students and staff at UNH would have been faced with draconian water restrictions.  Instead, UNH is currently one of the few communities in the seacoast region of New Hampshire that has not had to institute substantial water conservation restrictions.

Go back