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Windham wants to explore municipal water options

WINDHAM — The Windham Community Development Department is hoping to fund a $30,000 study to examine options for bringing municipal water into the town’s main thoroughfare, town officials said this week.

The item will be placed on the department’s 2014 budget, though voters at the springtime town meeting would have the final say, Community Development Director Laura Scott said on Thursday.

“This is something the Economic Development Committee has been seriously looking at for the past year,” Scott added. “We struggle with water quality and quantity issues in town and having municipal water access would definitely help us in the areas of economic development, fire protection and preservation of natural resources.”

Scott said the study would include information from other communities as well as data from the Department of Environmental Services and Pennichuck Water Works, a private company that currently provides water to certain areas of town.

However, a large portion of Windham households rely on residential wells, Scott noted.

Ralph Valentine, a member of the Windham Economic Development Committee, has been sharing the plan proposal with various town boards and committees over the past month or so.

Valentine appeared before the Windham School Board on Sept. 17.

“If we could bring in water from the Merrimack River, we could reduce drawing more ground water,” Valentine told the board this week. “It could, in turn, recharge our ground water and aquifers. Potentially we’d get more.”

Valentine said the topic is of particular interest to the school district as extending municipal water lines would make for more efficient and less expensive fire protection since it would eliminate the need for fire ponds and cisterns in town.

“It would also indirectly reduce tax burdens for individual property owners,” he added, noting that the water study would estimate the town’s average daily water demands.

Pennichuck Water Works, which is the largest investor-owned water utility company in the Granite State, currently serves 28 communities.

The company provides water to Carr Hill, Spruce Pond Estates and Oakwood communities near the Derry town line, the Whispering Winds neighborhood near the Hudson/Pelham town lines, the Goldenbrook and Fletcher’s Corner neighborhoods near the Pelham town line, and a handful of neighborhoods along the Windham side of Canobie Lake and near Seavey Pond.

Valentine said the study would likely focus extensively on the Exit 3 corridor — an area that’s rife with development possibilities due to the ongoing Interstate 93 expansion.

An early 1990s study conducted by the DES had recommended that communities in the southeastern portion of the state could consider meeting future water needs from the Merrimack River.

Committee members voiced their concerns to the Board of Selectmen earlier this month.

“Water is a big issue right now,” Valentine said, noting that the communities of Salem, Plaistow and Derry are all experiencing similar conundrums. “As much as we think we can just drill a well and the water just comes out, that’s not the case. As it turns out, most of our larger well systems are due for some major capital improvements.”

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