Watershed planning across boundaries in New Hampshire

Population growth in New Hampshire’s coastal communities is straining municipal stormwater and wastewater infrastructure and placing water quality and public health at risk. At the same time, communities are being called on to respond to new, more stringent permit requirements for discharging stormwater and wastewater from treatment plants. The Great Bay reserve worked with an interdisciplinary team of scientists, coastal managers, and environmental consultants and three communities to create an innovative watershed-wide plan for stormwater and wastewater management to improve water quality and support the area’s economic viability.

Project Impact

This project generated tools and information needed by municipal officials in the towns of Exeter, Stratham, and Newfields to manage stormwater and wastewater and improve local water quality in a more coordinated, effective way.

Based on this project, these communities quantified the economic and performance advantages of inter-municipal collaboration and the integration of water resource planning. As a result, they will be able to target scarce financial resources where they will have the greatest social and environmental benefits. Municipal officials have begun to use the project’s integrated planning approach to coordinate stormwater and wastewater management and comply with Clean Water Act requirements through sustainable solutions to protect human health, improve water quality, and manage stormwater.

This project also laid the groundwork for a regional water quality monitoring effort, co-funded by municipal, state, and federal agencies. It developed a monitoring plan that will allow communities to demonstrate regulatory compliance with sewage treatment plant permits, executive order requirements, and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System general permit conditions and to track the effectiveness of water management actions over time.

How it worked

An interdisciplinary team from the Great Bay reserve, Geosyntec Consultants, and the University of New Hampshire partnered with three coastal communities to develop an integrated plan for stormwater and wastewater management. Building on a strong history of municipal collaboration, the team worked with the towns of Exeter, Stratham, and Newfields to coordinate management efforts and improve water quality, while supporting the economic viability of the communities.

The project engaged local stakeholders to identify and prioritize the best management approaches for managing water quality and climate impacts within and across municipal boundaries. A Coordinating Team and Advisory Committee helped to manage the project’s technical components and guide research to meet stakeholder needs.

The project team used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Storm Water Management Model to develop a model to predict annual stormwater runoff pollutant loads and estimate the benefits of developing green infrastructure practices to improve water quality. They worked with municipal officials to assess social, economic, and environmental tradeoffs and regulatory opportunities associated with different stormwater and wastewater management practices. They also collaborated with state and federal environmental regulatory agencies to develop a monitoring plan that communities could use to demonstrate compliance with stormwater and wastewater management requirements, determine the effectiveness of management actions, and support and guide management decisions in an adaptive manner.


This project developed tools and resources that can help neighboring communities implement an integrated planning approach to complying with stormwater and wastewater management regulations and requirements. To learn more, visit the team’s website or browse the resources below: