Blog : CLF Waterkeeper: Growing threats to Great Bay and the Piscataqua

By Patrick | Apr 18, 2014 | in


What happens when you pave paradise?

Between 1990 and 2005, there was a 75 percent increase in the total amount of parking lots and roads within the Great Bay Watershed. Because of this expansion of impervious surfaces, precipitation that normally would be absorbed by the surrounding soil is collected on the pavement, and has a stronger chance of reaching the Great Bay – bringing oil, road salt, and other harmful toxins with it.

The Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program, a sector of Conservation Law Foundation, aims to preserve the ecological identity of the Great Bay while encouraging the many recreational activities the area offers to residents and tourists alike.

Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper Jeff Barnum focuses on addressing this and other growing threats to the estuary.

“We must be more aware of our impacts and collectively reduce the high level of pollutants we leak into the estuary every year,” said Barnum. “Practices as customary as fertilizing your lawn invite storm water to leach the chemicals from the grass and carry them down stream – eventually into the Piscataqua and the Great Bay.”

Reducing nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants, storm water runoff and other sources is important in light of significant increases over the past few years. High levels of nitrogen can cause algae blooms and greatly reduce water clarity.

Eelgrass – which Barnum calls the cornerstone of the ecosystem – has declined rapidly in the last decade. Once abundant in both the Piscataqua and the Great Bay, eelgrass now only remains in the Great Bay – though it has also been declining.

Another threat posed to ecology and to recreational activities in the estuary is the deteriorating oyster population. Oysters are vital in maintaining water quality but their population in the New Hampshire Seacoast has never quite recovered from exposure to harmful pathogens in the 1990’s. Their effort to rebuild their population might be strengthened by a reduced human impact to the waters of the estuary.

In addressing these major threats to the sensitive ecosystem of the Great Bay, Barnum employs three strategies.

He believes the first step is to maintain a strong local voice when standing up for the estuary. The second is to advocate for the advancement of important policies and innovative solutions. Finally, the third is to be the “eyes and ears” of the estuary – ensuring its full protection under the Clean Water Act and similar environmental initiatives.

However, the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper branch of the Conservation Law Foundation will never turn away help from those who are able and willing. If you are a firm believer in the enormous value of the Great Bay for recreational or ecological reasons, there are quite a few ways to stay in the loop and get your hands dirty from time to time.

Click here to learn more about the Great Bay-Piscataqua Waterkeeper program.

Click here to get involved.