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Project ID:2006NH52B

Title: Protecting water supply quality through improved watershed planning and management

Project Type: Research

Start Date: 03/01/2006

End Date: 02/28/2007

Congressional District: NH01

Focus Categories: Management and Planning, Economics, Law, Institutions, and Policy

Keywords: watershed policy, conjoint analysis, stakeholder, public participation

Principal Investigators: Halstead, John M.; Ballestero, Thomas P.

Federal Funds: $ 22,191

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 46,660

Abstract: New Hampshire rivers are critical economic, environmental and cultural resources throughout the State. Nonetheless, they remain threatened by development pressures, water withdrawals, siltation, channelization or other changes that can harm wildlife habitat. To ensure that river resources are better protected, the State has initiated a pilot process of Instream Flow Protection. In 2002, a broad coalition of New Hampshire business and conservation interests joined together to enact compromise legislation that calls for a pilot program for instream flow protection on two of the fourteen designated rivers- the Souhegan River in the Merrimack watershed and the Lamprey River, a key resource in the coastal part of the state. Research is currently being finalized on the Souhegan. The Lamprey River is the focus of this proposal. In order to protect the water flow and thus water quality of the Lamprey, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) is coordinating the creation of a river management plan. The effort to create the management plan is a large collaboration of scientists at the University of New Hampshire, the University of Massachusetts, and Normandeu Associates (a local environmental consulting firm). Creating a water management plan that protects instream flow levels is a highly scientific endeavor, yet NHDES also requires that affected stakeholders have input in the project through public hearings and comment.

While the DES study is comprehensive and will include the consideration of select stakeholder values, it does not include an extensive examination of public values. Our proposal will add to a key component to the current project and serve to create a truly multidisciplinary approach to river management, one that involves an extensive examination of the values of both affected stakeholders and citizens in the entire watershed. The close involvement of water users, dam owners, stakeholder groups, and the watershed's citizens, in a structured management design will improve the Water Management Plan process in several ways: improved articulation and characterization of resources requiring protection, expanded generation of practical and feasible policy alternatives for protection of these resources, enhanced understanding of conflicts or opportunity for compromise among different or conflicting stakeholder groups, and smoother implementation of the final water management plan.

When a system is oversubscribed (excessive demands) or undersupplied (extreme low river flow) or possesses insufficient storage, all needs cannot be met simultaneously. Moreover, the competing objectives or perspectives of different stakeholders groups make it likely that no single "best" alternative is likely to emerge that will satisfy all stakeholders. Therefore, the basic approach to analysis and management must accommodate multiple decision criteria, perspectives, and a variety of quantitative and qualitative scales. This study proposes to employ multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). MCDA can help resource managers understand how to assess different management strategies when legislatively mandated Instream Pubic Uses, Outstanding Characteristics and Resources (IPUOCR) needs must be prioritized.

Our research team will be responsible for conducting interviews with water users and affected dam owners to learn about their perceptions of the Lamprey and how they value the benefits it provides. Results from the survey will be used to guide the development of the water management plan for the Lamprey River. A public, watershed-wide survey will also be conducted to compare the views of the most affected waterusers with those of the entire watershed. Including both stakeholder and general public views in the development of a management plan for a river of multiple uses, will lead to a less contentious decision and more inclusive management process. While all involved may not agree with the final water allocations and flow regimes, they will at least agree that the management decisions were made in a structured and inclusive manner that took their values into consideration.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 03, 2008
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