Urbanization and intensive agriculture have been shown to have negative impacts on water quality, but the impacts of suburbanization are less well known. In New England, the pressure of suburbanization is large and land use patterns are often rapidly changing with interspersed agriculture, active forest management and human habitation. To address the effects of suburbanization on water quality, we established a long-term study of the Lamprey River basin (479 km^2) in SE New Hampshire in 1999. The entire Lamprey River basin is referred to as the Lamprey River Hydrologic Observatory (LRHO) and serves as a platform to study the hydrology and biogeochemistry of a suburban basin. The LRHO is used as a focal point for student and faculty research, teaching and outreach in the Departments of Natural Resources & the Environment, Earth Science, Civil Engineering and the Climate Change Research Center.
The Lamprey River Hydrologic Observatory provides an ideal area to examine the impacts of suburbanization for many reasons. The LRHO is close enough to UNH that it can be intensively studied by faculty, students and researchers in several departments. There are also a number of current water resources issues occurring in the basin such as with water withdrawals and transfers for public drinking water supply, wastewater disposal, numerous dams, low dissolved oxygen levels, arsenic contamination of groundwater, and pressures from population growth. The LRHO covers several towns and is primarily located in Rockingham county where a 53% growth in population is expected from 1998 to 2020 (Sundquist and Stevens 1999). In 2000, the Lamprey watershed had an overall population density of 53 people/km^2 and was 68% forested, but this varies throughout the basin.
A large portion of the Lamprey River Hydrologic Observatory project is funded by the NH WRRC and AIRMAP (http://airmap.unh.edu/). AIRMAP is a multi-institutional effort funded primarily by NOAA (http://www.oar.noaa.gov/) to understand New England’s changing climate and air quality. Previous funding was provided by the Connecticut River Airshed-Watershed Consortium (CRAWC). CRAWC was a consortium of environmental research faculty from the four land-grant universities in the four states, which share the Connecticut River basin and was formed to study the transport of contaminants along interfacial pathways. Current objectives of the LRHO within the NH WRRC are to:
- Determine if suburbanization is driving long-term trends in Lamprey River chemistry
- Determine if spatial variability in surface and groundwater chemistry can be predicted by watershed attributes
- Assess what drives long-term N balance in the Lamprey River watershed.