Conference Examines Economic Impact of N.H. Watersheds

Mar 15, 2019

Lake Winnipesaukee.
Credit Robert Garrova / NHPR

Researchers have compiled new data on the economic impacts of New Hampshire watersheds.

The UNH team and its partners previewed their forthcoming study Friday at Plymouth State University, during the annual state Water and Watershed Conference.

They analyzed a range of data to quantify the value and costs of the state’s lakes and rivers – through infrastructure, recreation and more.

At Friday’s conference, they showed some figures on freshwater recreation. They say they found recreational fishing alone contributes $215 million a year to the state's economy – mostly in trip and equipment spending, with a small part in fishing licenses.

They also say visitors who came to swim at freshwater state parks in summer 2017 brought in $40 million. That same year, the state saw $100 million in economic impact from visits by out-of-state boaters.

The study also looked at waterfront properties in Meredith. Researchers say they found these properties represent only a quarter of homes in town – but they make up half its property values.

Tom O’Brien is president of the nonprofit New Hampshire Lakes, which is part of the public-private partnership that worked on the study. He gave one takeaway:

“How goes the lakes, how goes the rivers, so goes those communities adjacent to them that are reliant upon those property values and property tax incomes,” O’Brien says.

He says they hope to use their final report, due out soon, to identify more areas that could benefit from further research – and to make a case to state and local lawmakers for more investment in watershed protection and infrastructure.