PREP Reports & Publications


This final report presents the results of a study to evaluate groundwater inflow and nutrient loadings to the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire. The evaluation of inflow was accomplished independently by two methods: one, used thermal imagery, and the other, piezometric mapping. The thermal imagery method assessed groundwater that was observed to discharge within the intertidal zone of an inland estuary. The groundwater piezometric mapping method used bedrock wells around the bay to create an overall piezometric map of the near-bay area. Groundwater discharge was evaluated with respect to flow, concentration, and ultimately nitrogen loading to coastal waters. The results represent a snapshot for these variables, examined by a thermal infrared aerial survey in the spring of 2000, and water quality, specific discharge, and piezometric surface maps in the summer of 2001. Monitoring wells upgradient of the Great Bay were analyzed for nitrogen as an indicator of potential discharge source waters. Total groundwater discharge to the estuary was calculated as 24.2 cubic feet per second (cfs) with an average of 0.81± 0.89 mg dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN)/L, with a maximum value of 2.7 mg DIN/L (n=20). Nutrient concentrations, averaging 0.83± 1.34 mg DIN/L, with a maximum value of 10.2 mg DIN/L, were observed in upgradient bedrock groundwater analyzed from 192 wells. Nutrient loading was calculated to be 19.3±21.2 tons of N per year for the total Great Bay Estuary, covering nearly 144 miles of shoreline. The groundwater derived nutrient loading accounts for approximately 5% of the total non-point source load to the estuary. The thermal imagery method was found to be an effective and affordable alternative to conventional groundwater exploration approaches.


Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership

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NOAA/UNH Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology

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