GOVERNOR MAGGIE HASSAN SPEAKS, Friday, at Plymouth State University for the Water and Watershed Conference. She tells those in attendance to ‘never take our water for granted.’ BOB MARTIN/CITIZEN
PLYMOUTH — The Lakes Region is known as one of the premier tourist destinations in New England, notably due to the many bodies of water that it has to offer. If the quality of the water was to degrade, it could mean significant losses for the Granite State’s economy.
According to Linwood Pendleton, chief economist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, the region would suffer dramatically in the ways of millions of dollars due to the lack of tourism.
Pendleton, a resident of Sandwich, was the keynote speaker at Friday’s N.H. Water and Watershed Conference held at Plymouth State University. He told a crowd of approximately 200 people that a study done by Anne Nordstrom of Antioch New England shows that 69 percent of visitors of the Granite State said they would not return to the Lakes Region if water quality worsened.
This, he said, would result in a potential loss of 400 jobs around the Lakes Region and 800 jobs overall. He added that there would be a loss of $8 million in income and $23 million in sales.
“If you are on Squam Lake and you stand on a dock, you can see the bottom,” said Pendleton. “You know when the water quality changes.”
Governor Maggie Hassan also spoke at the conference, and told the attendees that clean water is absolutely critical to New Hampshire’s quality of life, and that rich or poor, everyone needs clean water.
“We must never take our water for granted, and it is important that we use it in a sustainable way,” said Hassan.
The day-long event featured more than 30 talks addressing current water related research as well as effective strategies at the local, regional, state, and federal levels about changing environmental and societal conditions and their effects on New Hampshire’s water resources and aquatic environment.
Specific topics included watershed planning, restoration, and management; education and outreach; ecosystem services of lakes, rivers, and watersheds; coordinating a response to climate change; and water quality and quantity.
Pendleton explained that every year people take more than two million trips to the state just to fish, spending more than three million days fishing. He said that a study estimates that people spend an estimated $352 million on fishing every year, which includes paying for gas, bait and other supplies. In a state with a population of just over 1.3 million, this is a huge deal, he explained. He added that people also spend $450 million on boating activities not related to fishing, and he said that it directly depends on the quality of the water.
“That is a gigantic proportion of the mid New Hampshire economy, and it all depends on the water,” said Pendleton.
Pendleton explained that it is not just about boating and fishing, but also relates to the many beautiful public beaches that the state has to offer. He said that, compared to the rest of New England, New Hampshire has many beaches that are open to the public, which draws in visitors. However, if the water quality diminishes, he said that it will significantly affect the $268 million annual spent each year by people going to beaches. This, he said, doesn’t even include the residents of N.H. who also frequently use the beaches.
“These people are not only spending money, but buying second homes and choosing where they want to live in New Hampshire based on these activities,” said Pendleton.
While commercial fishing brings in less than $4 million annually, he said that it is still very important, noting that people in New Hampshire love their fish and love their water.
“A lot of people, including NOAA, say that future fishing depends on aquaculture,” Pendleton said.
Pendleton also touched on milfoil and the effect on home prices. He said that studies have shown that lake front homes experience a 43 percent decline in value with milfoil. Loss of visibility in water by meter also results in loss of home value, he said.
Pendleton also stated that 84 percent of New Hampshire is forested, and the biggest threat to the state’s water quality is poor forest management practices. This results in pollution and development that have negative, long-term impacts on surrounding water bodies.
“I think we have to make some real progress in water quality with solutions and innovations, particularly in rural areas, because I don’t think NH can afford not to,” Pendleton said.