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NH Drinking Water Quality Buffer Model Ordinance Protecting Water Resources at the Local Level

Methods of Buffer Protection

Water quality buffers can incorporate landscape level characteristics that contribute to water quality impairment such as steep slopes, erodible soils, stormwater runoff, and non-point and point sources of pollution.

The model buffer ordinance seeks to recognize these landscape characteristics where they occur - not on all properties and not on all development sites. The goal is to prevent water quality impairment and minimize existing impairments when possible.

The guidance in this document provides an approach to protecting the long-term quality and availability of New Hampshire’s surface water being used as a source of drinking water by a public water system. The guidance considers the current literature involving the role of buffers in maintaining water quality as well as other factors including site specific conditions, and land use best management practices.

Protecting public and private drinking water resources is most often accomplished through the following approaches:

  • local water resource protection and conservation that engage community stakeholders and water users and promote best practices in water management, investments in protective measures, and sound land use planning and policies;
  • land use regulation and management focused on pollution prevention best practices and limiting development and impervious surfaces in drinking water supply watersheds;
  • land conservation practices focused on protecting source waters and their contributing drainage and recharge areas; and
  • application of best available science on water quality protection, drought, climate change, water conservation, and water resource and demand management.

NH Drinking Water Quality Buffer Model Ordinance (April 2022)

Technical Resources

Refer to informational materials and technical resources from the NH Buffer Options for the Bay project at

This project was developed by Rockingham Planning Commission and Strafford Regional Planning Commission with funding provided by a Local Source Water Protection Grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Source Water Protection Program.

Project Partner:

Strafford Regional Planning Commission

Funding credit:

Preparation of this application was funded by a Local Source Water Protection grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Source Water Protection Program.