Andover is fortunate to have an abundance of public water resources, including lakes,
ponds, rivers, and streams, some of which serve as supplies of public drinking water.
Unfortunately, unplanned and uncoordinated development adjacent to these resources can
threaten them by increasing unfiltered storm water runoff to them.
Today, stormwater runoff poses the greatest threat to our waterbodies because it contains the elements that accelerate the natural aging process of our waterbodies. Stormwater decreases water quality and clarity and increases the likelihood of toxic algae blooms and sedimentation. If left unchecked, this pollution could render our public water drinking supplies unfit for consumption.
Fortunately, we have the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act in the state of New Hampshire to help prevent this from happening. This article will explore what this law means for our residents, and will give you information so you can make informed decisions when planning projects so you can better ensure that you and your family can enjoy Andover’s waters for generations to come.
In short, the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA) seeks to protect the land
around our waterbodies in order to protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat for the
organisms that depend on the water and the surrounding lands.
Water quality is tremendously dependent on a natural buffer or protective area consisting of native trees, saplings, shrubs, and ground covers that aid in intercepting and filtering stormwater runoff. The more native vegetation surrounding a waterbody, the better the water quality will be. Additionally, from an economic standpoint, protecting water quality also serves to protect the value of shorefront properties.
The SWQPA protects all lakes, ponds, and impoundments greater than 10 acres;
designated rivers and river segments designated under RSA 483, the Rivers Management and Protection Program; and all fourth-order and greater streams and rivers.
In Andover, the waterbodies protected by the SWQPA include the Blackwater River,
Frazier Brook, Cascade (or Eagle) Brook, Highland Lake, Bradley Lake, Elbow Pond, Adder (or
Hopkins) Pond, Horseshoe Pond, and Cole Pond. Although many of Andover’s smaller
waterbodies are not protected by this law, they also serve an important role in filtering and
cleaning our water.
All waterbodies protected by the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA) are on a comprehensive list maintained by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) called the DES Consolidated List of Waterbodies Subject to the SWQPA. The list can be found at DES.NH.gov/documents/consolidated-list-waterbodies-subject-swqpa.
If you are planning any new construction, excavation, or filling, within 250 feet of a
protected waterbody, a DES Shoreland Permit is required. When in doubt, call DES at 603 271-2147.
Within the first 50′ from the water’s edge (reference line) is where most of the regulations are focused. Within this area, also called the Waterfront Buffer, except for a 6′ wide walkway to the water, existing natural ground cover and shrubs may not be removed, landscaped, or converted to lawn. Ground cover and shrubs may not be pruned to any less than three feet in height. To allow better views, the bottom third of trees may be pruned, so long as the health of the tree is not endangered. Tree and sapling removal is permissible without a DES Shoreland Permit within this area, but there are limitations. These limitations are explained in the Vegetation Management Fact Sheet.
True timber harvesting operations can occur within the protected shoreland, but they are subject to more stringent standards under New Hampshire Forestry Law RSA 227-J:9. For more information, please see the Vegetation for Water Quality Fact Sheet at www.des.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt341/files/documents/2020-01/sp-5.pdf.
If you still have questions or want to be sure about something, you can call the DES Wetlands Bureau at 603 271-2147 or visit their Shoreland Program Permit Guidance interactive pages at
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as a reference to the laws.