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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

New Hampshire

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Crystal Lake Preservation AssociationTackles Urban Runoff



Successful watershed projects usually have two common elements: active community participation and a relatively small geographic area. The Crystal Lake Watershed Project in Manchester, New Hampshire, is the first 319 project in that state with contract funds awarded directly to a volunteer organization with no professional staff. Members of the Crystal Lake Preservation Association (CLPA) have a direct stake in the lake's water quality and an active presence both within the watershed and in city government. The watershed is about 200 acres and includes about 300 homes.

Project description

Crystal Lake is a small urban lake (21.2 acres), that is also an important recreational resource. Its watershed lacks tributaries during dry weather; the lake is recharged by groundwater and stormwater runoff. The source of all tributaries is the interface between stormwater runoff and groundwater. A diagnostic/feasibility study completed in 1985 documented that 67 percent of the phosphorus contribution to the lake is from stormwater runoff. Anecdotal information, such as dumping crankcase oil in storm drains and grass clippings in drainage ditches, indicated that residents did not understand that stormwater drains into the lake without treatment.

Crystal Lake's 319 project began in 1994 and ended in June 1996. It had three interrelated components: storm drain stenciling; street sweeping/stormwater quality; and an informational kiosk. Educational activities were included in all project activities. For example, a workshop on stormwater was held prior to storm drain stenciling. Volunteer stencilers were equipped with doorknob flyers that let residents know why they should be concerned about stormwater drainage.

Additional workshops were held to educate watershed residents about shoreline vegetation, lake water quality trends, and proper disposal of household hazardous wastes. To inform the public about long-term lake issues, the CLPA constructed an information kiosk on which they could post water quality monitoring results, announcements about upcoming events, and lake protection tips for homeowners.

Pollutant levels decrease

Water quality benefits from educational activities are difficult to measure; however, volunteer lake assessment data collected monthly during the growing season from 1991 to 1995, indicate that pollutant levels have been reduced to levels at which alum treatment, recommended in the diagnostic/feasibility study, is no longer needed. The project's street sweeping/stormwater quality component included storm event monitoring to measure the effectiveness of street sweeping. Stormwater runoff was monitored at four entry points to the lake during similar storm events before and immediately after street sweeping. After street sweeping, pollutant levels were significantly lower. For example, phosphorus declined by 48 percent; lead by 78 percent; total suspended solids by 75 percent; turbidity by 68 percent; copper by 67 percent; and zinc by 33 percent.

E. coli bacteria increased after street sweeping from a range of 30 to 70 colonies per 100 mL to a range of 10 to 2,000 colonies per 100 mL, for reasons unknown to the monitors.

The CLPA complements the lake project with political action. Local politicians now participate in CLPA meetings and trust their ideas. The planning board has required at least one developer to redesign stormwater drainage included in his proposed building plans, based on CLPA objections. CLPA is also lobbying for sewer line extensions into the watershed.

New project planning

Using its stormwater monitoring data, CLPA has identified the subwatersheds that contribute the greatest pollutant load to Crystal Lake, and will in the near future (and in partnership with other stakeholders) install a structural best management practice that will intercept and filter stormwater that flows into the lake from these sources. The watershed residents' heightened awareness of nonpoint source issues combined with stormwater monitoring has helped create a long-term vision for controlling pollution.


CONTACT: Eric Williams
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
(603) 271-2358



The Connecticut River Watershed Project -
Agricultural BMPs Enhance Stream Ecology



New Hampshire does not have a significant agricultural nonpoint pollution problem statewide. However, the Connecticut River watershed (in central New Hampshire, midway along the New Hampshire/Vermont border) does have significant dairy farming and other agricultural activity (corn and field crops) and associated water quality impacts. Many of the farms are old and worked on the margin; few of their owners have money available for dealing with agricultural nonpoint problems. To address certain needs, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services' Nonpoint Source Program funded the Upper Connecticut River Watershed Project in 1991 with a 319 grant.

Part of this project included working with farmers to demonstrate agricultural best management practices (BMPs). The demonstration site chosen for intensive monitoring -- whose owner was a willing participant in the project -- was Dale Lewis' farm (the Rocky Hill Farm). This dairy operation is located near the headwaters of Morris Brook (which has a total length of about 2 miles and drains about 3 square miles), a tributary to Oliverian Brook which feeds into the Connecticut River in Haverhill. Problems with sediment and stream turbidity, cow manure, and fertilizers were the main focus. Beginning in 1991, agricultural BMPs were installed to address these problems. BMPs included construction of manure storage areas and application of manures to avoid contamination of the brook, construction of concrete pads in heavy animal use areas to minimize soil disturbance, addition of house and barn roof drains to divert clean runoff away from the dairy, and a brook crossing for animal control (to prevent streambank erosion). In 1992, the River Watch Network (RWN) was contracted to monitor the water quality (chemical and macroinvertebrate monitoring) of Morris Brook to assess the effectiveness of the BMPs. Volunteers and staff of the Connecticut River Watch Program collected the water and macroinvertebrate samples and performed the data analysis.

Improved macroinvertebrate community

River Watch Network's summary report, The Impact of Agricultural Waste Management Practices on Morris Brook, 1992-1994, included chemical and biological monitoring and sampling for total phosphorus, turbidity, temperature, and E. coli bacteria at six sites and for macroinvertebrates at three locations. Elevated bacteria were found in Morris Brook at all sites (including the upstream control sites), both during storm events and during dry weather. RWN's findings indicate that the source of bacteria is not runoff related, but from a constant source such as manure deposited directly into the brook or a failing septic system. Samples tested for phosphorus and turbidity were somewhat elevated below the farm most of the time.

The macroinvertebrate community downstream from the demonstration site showed significant improvement. Macroinvertebrates are stream insects and other tiny life forms that are excellent indicators of pollution, since some are more pollution tolerant than others. Over the three years, the previously impacted sites downstream from the farm changed. They began to show greater diversity and fewer pollution-tolerant organisms.


BMPs included construction of manure storage areas and application of manures to avoid contamination of the brook, construction of concrete pads in heavy animal use areas to minimize soil disturbance, addition of house and barn roof drains to divert clean runoff away from the dairy, and a brook crossing for animal control (to prevent streambank erosion).

Over the years, RWN observed an increase in the percentage of the mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies in the sample, from about 55 percent in 1993 to over 75 percent in 1994. In addition, the dominant group shifted from worms in 1993 to mayflies in 1994. This represents a shift from pollution-tolerant to pollution-intolerant organisms; thus, the quality of the water was improving.

In its report, RWN stated "the waste management practices implemented on the farm reduced organic pollution and improved the quality of the brook's ecological integrity, despite consistently elevated bacteria levels."

Had this assessment relied solely on water chemistry as a measure of BMP success, the project may not have demonstrated any improvements. On the other hand, RWN noted that without the bacteria monitoring, the continuing E. coli problem would have been missed. The Morris Brook report recommends continued annual monitoring to document continued improvements, and the installation of additional BMPs (such as streambank fencing to keep out livestock along the entire stream).


CONTACT: Eric Williams
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
(603) 271-2358

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