NH water council chair warns of economic crisis

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PLYMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - The head of a state council says New Hampshire could face an economic crisis if it doesn’t revitalize its water system infrastructure.

John Gilbert is chairman of the state Water Council, which represents public and private interests, along with a number of state agencies. At a recent conference at Plymouth State University, he estimated it will cost nearly $3 billion over 10 years to repair the state’s aging and overburdened waste and storm water treatment plants, water utilities and underground piping, and argued that doing nothing will create major problems.

“Maybe the southeast corner of the state could stop development because there is not enough water, or the Boston metro area may need more water … and propose a big pipeline to get their water from the North Country,” he said. “We don’t want to say the sky is falling, but we’re already seeing problems and they will get much worse within 10 years. We need to start chipping away at this.”

Upgrading storm water systems could ultimately save money because doing so could prevent costly property damage such as road and bridge washouts. As part of the “New Hampshire Lives on Water” project, he also is trying to build a coalition of citizens to advocate for maintaining long term sustainability of the state’s water resources.

The daylong conference featured more than 40 discussions addressing water-related research and how environmental and social conditions affect New Hampshire’s water resources and aquatic environment.

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