Tamworth—April 4, 2023—Tamworth voters on March 14 approved a Groundwater Protection Ordinance by a wide margin, with 231 voting in favor and 43 voting against the measure. It will take effect on January 1, 2024.
Passage of the ordinance was the result of a multi-year effort by the town’s Planning Board and Conservation Commission. A Groundwater Protection Ordinance Committee was established to create community engagement with the message that clean drinking water is essential for the town’s tourism-driven economy.
“The education program offered by the Groundwater Protection Committee was essential for building community support,” according to Planning Board Chair Sheldon Perry.
Perry said the committee reached out to every business in town for input and suggestions, and was a regular presence at public gatherings like the Farmers Market and July 4 parade. Local events featured DES speakers and others, like Dr. Robert Newton, whose expertise helped explain the science behind aquifers and the spread of contaminants.
After close to two years of work, a draft document was presented, discussed and tweaked at three public hearings last fall, leading to last month’s vote.
The stated purpose of the ordinance is to preserve and protect certain groundwater supply areas from contamination “in the interest of public health, safety, and general welfare.” The designated Groundwater Protection District includes all Wellhead Protection Areas for public water supply wells and the Stratified Drift Aquifer.
In the coming months, the Select Board will formulate an inspection program and work to educate the town about how the ordinance will work when it takes effect next year.
A previous effort to adopt an ordinance a decade ago was unsuccessful. In the intervening years, however, high-profile environmental cases in Ossipee and Effingham helped underscore the reality that communities, and not the state, have the primary responsibility for protecting water resources.
With last week’s vote, Tamworth becomes the 111th New Hampshire community to establish a local ordinance defining and protecting its groundwater resources.