PLYMOUTH — More than two-thirds of the tourists visiting New Hampshire’s Lakes Region would not return if the water quality degraded, according to the keynote speaker at last week’s N.H. Water and Watershed Conference at Plymouth State University. Linwood Pendleton, chief economist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says an Antioch New England study shows 69 percent of out-of-state visitors surveyed would not come back to the Lakes Region if the water quality was noticeably worse.
“The magnitude was a surprise to me, but you have to remember there is a lot of competition for tourism dollars,” said Pendleton. “The thing that really separates New Hampshire from the rest of the pack is how much clean freshwater we have.”
“What it tells me is many, many people have been coming here for years and they keep coming back, because they know what they’re getting,” said Dr. Joe Boyer, director of PSU’s Center for the Environment. “Property values on lakes with milfoil problems are lower,” noted Boyer. “This tells me that we need to do more to work on milfoil, and homeowner associations and lake associations know this and they’re really going after it because they know what’s at stake.”
Pendleton, a Sandwich resident, stated 84 percent of New Hampshire is forested, and the biggest threat to the state’s water quality is poor forest management practices resulting in pollution and development that have negative, long-term impacts on surrounding water bodies.
Governor Maggie Hassan told the nearly 200 conference attendees that “clean water is absolutely critical to New Hampshire’s quality of life… rich or poor, we all need clean water.”
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.