State Summary: New Hampshire

Ranked 2nd in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states)
1% of samples exceeded national standards for designated beach areas in 2012

Protecting swimmers from bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants in beachwater requires leadership. Federal officials must help clean up polluted stormwater runoff—the most commonly identified cause of beach closings and swimming advisories—by developing national rules that require pollution sources to prevent stormwater where it starts by retaining it on-site.

The Environmental Protection Agency must also set beachwater quality standards protective of human health and provide states with the support they need to monitor beach pollution and notify the public when pollution levels are high.

  • Rated
  • Monitoring data available
  • No monitoring data available
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New Hampshire 2012 Beachwater Quality Summary

Reported Sources of Beachwater Contamination
(number of closing/advisory days)

  • 6 (100%) unknown contamination sources

New Hampshire has 17 public coastal and estuarine beaches along 18 miles of Atlantic coastline. The state's beachwater quality monitoring program is administered by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES).

New Hampshire Water Quality Challenges and Improvements

In 2011, the DES created Water Quality Management Plans for the Little River watershed (which affects water quality at North Hampton State Beach) and the Parson's Creek watershed (which affects water quality at Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Road). In 2012, New Hampshire awarded the towns of North Hampton and Rye funding to implement further work on these Water Quality Management Plans. A variety of projects have been suggested to improve the water quality of both watersheds.

Both North Hampton and Rye will develop a comprehensive education and outreach strategy to ensure that community members understand proper maintenance of their septic systems and the effects of malfunctioning systems on water quality. North Hampton and Rye will also institute an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination program that will identify malfunctioning septic systems, create enforcement protocols for identified malfunctioning systems, create universal record-keeping methods, strengthen municipal ordinances to better protect surface waters from bacterial pollution, develop programs to finance septic system upgrades or replacements, and evaluate alternatives to individual septic systems. Both towns will also create programs to reduce the amount of bacteria in developed-area runoff and the impacts of stormwater pipes on surface waters. Additionally, North Hampton will develop wildlife repellent and habitat-restriction programs to reduce wildlife contributions to the beach bacteria load.

What Does Beachwater Monitoring Show?1

In 2012, New Hampshire reported 17 coastal beaches, all of them in Rockingham County. Of these, 8 (47%) were assigned a monitoring frequency of more than once a week, 6 (35%) were monitored once a week, 2 (12%) were monitored every other week, and 1 (6%) was not monitored. In 2012, 1% of all reported beach monitoring samples exceeded the state's daily maximum bacterial standard of 104 colonies/100 ml. The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the state standard in 2012 were Seabrook Harbor Beach (5%), Jenness Beach State Park (5%), State Beach (3%), Wallis Sands Beach at Wallis Road (1%), and New Castle Town Beach (1%).

New Hampshire Percent of Samples Exceeding the State's Daily Maximum Bacterial Standard for 16 Beaches Reported 2008-2012*

    * Please note that only samples from a common set of beaches monitored each year from 2008-2012 are included in the bar chart.

    What Are New Hampshire's Sampling Practices?

    The monitoring season in New Hampshire runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The DES determines sampling and notification practices, locations, standards, and protocols at all of its public coastal beaches. Samples are taken in knee-deep water. Sampling frequencies are based on beachwater quality history, the presence of suspected sources of microbial pathogens, and degree of beach use. The number of samples collected at each beach is determined by beach length, with two samples taken at beaches less than 100 feet in length and more samples taken at longer beaches.

    When an elevated bacteria result is found, a follow-up sample is taken within 24 hours. Beach advisories remain in effect until subsequent beach sampling reflects results below the state standard. Samples may also be collected at known and suspected discharge sources at New Hampshire's beaches, and extra wet-weather sampling may be conducted at beaches when stormwater runoff has the potential to impact water quality. States that monitor more frequently after an exceedance is found or after rainfall events will tend to have higher percent exceedance rates and lower total closing/advisory days than they would if their sampling frequency did not increase after an exceedance was found.

    How Many Beach Advisories Were Issued in 2012?2

    Total closing/advisory days for 3 events lasting six consecutive weeks or less decreased 33% to 6 days in 2012 from 9 days in 2011. For prior years, there were 16 days in 2010, 12 days in 2009, and 13 days in 2008. In addition, there were no extended or permanent events in 2012. Extended events are those in effect more than six weeks but not more than 13 consecutive weeks; permanent events are in effect for more than 13 consecutive weeks. For the 3 events lasting six consecutive weeks or less, 100% (6) of closing/advisory days were due to monitoring that revealed elevated bacteria levels.

    Advisories were issued for Seabrook Harbor, New Castle, and Jenness State Park beaches, each lasting just two days.

    How Does New Hampshire Determine When to Warn Visitors About Swimming?

    When tests reveal bacteria levels that violate health standards, DES issues advisories through its website and Twitter feed and by posting signs at the beach. State policy is to issue advisories and not closings at beaches, but towns can close beaches within their jurisdiction. New Hampshire applies an enterococcus single-sample maximum of 104 cfu/100 ml. If two or more samples collected at a beach exceed the standard or if one sample exceeds 174 cfu/100 ml, a beach advisory is issued. The advisory remains in place until a resample shows that the level is below the state threshold. The state standard for the geometric mean of at least three samples collected over a 60-day period is 35 cfu/100 ml, but the geometric mean standard is not used to issue beach advisories.

    Additionally, a preemptive advisory is issued if a public beach area is threatened by a suspected sewage spill or leak. Members of the public are encouraged to report if they fall ill after visiting one of New Hampshire's public beaches, and illness complaints can potentially initiate further investigation of beachwater quality.

    New Hampshire 2012 Monitoring Results and Closing/Advisory Days

    Assigned Monitoring Frequency
    Total Samples
    % of samples exceeding
    state standards
    Closing or Advisory days
      NOTE: Data and state-specific information for this summary were collected from U.S. EPA, direct conversations with beach managers in the state, state grant reports to U.S. EPA for BEACH Act funding, and the state water quality website. The information in this state summary reflects current data as of June 7, 2013.
    1. If the 2012 percent exceedance values in this summary don't match, why not? The value at the top of the page reflects the proportion of samples exceeding the national single-sample maximum standard for designated beach areas. The values in the "What Does Beach Monitoring Show?" section reflect the proportion of samples exceeding the state standard, which in some states is more or less stringent than the national designated beach standard. Additionally, only samples from a common set of beaches monitored each year from 2008-2012 are included in the bar chart. Because some beaches were not monitored in each of those years, the percent exceedance for this subset of beaches may not have the same value as the percent exceedance for all of the beaches monitored in 2012.
    2. Year-to-year changes in closing/advisory days should not necessarily be interpreted as an indication of the level of bacterial contamination. In some states and localities, the number of beaches and/or beach monitoring frequency may not be consistent from one year to the next, and beaches may be closed or under a swimming advisory for reasons other than known or suspected bacterial contamination. Other reasons include, but are not limited to, chemical/oil spills, medical waste washing up on shore, dangerous currents, lack of lifeguards, etc. In addition, because NRDC's totals of closing/advisory events focus on those events lasting six consecutive weeks or less, those tallies do not account for longer-duration closings or advisories. For trends in water quality, please refer to NRDC's year-to-year comparison of percent exceedance rates of state water quality standards.


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