All About NH Public Waters

The State of NH owns all the lakes and Ponds known as "Public Waters" known as great ponds (natural waterbodies of 10 acres or more), tital waters and public rivers. For a complete list of public waters read on....

"Public waters" in New Hampshire are prescribed by common law as great ponds (natural waterbodies of 10 acres or more in size), tidal waters, and public rivers. These common law public waters are held by the State in trust for the people of New Hampshire. Several New Hampshire statutes define public waters in different ways, solely for the purpose of applying the specific statutes. Some of these statutory definitions include artificial impoundments of 10 acres or more in size.

The NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) maintains the Official List of Public Waters (OLPW). This document lists great ponds and artificial impoundments of 10 acres or more in the State of New Hampshire.

In the Official List of Public Waters, great ponds are identified as "NL" (natural lake) or "RD" (natural lake raised by damming). Artificial impoundments 10 acres or more in size are identified with the status of "AI". Waterbodies with the "AI" designation are not great ponds, as they were less than 10 acres in size before the construction of a dam.

Notice of Investigation into Status of Certain Waterbodies Listed [pdf]

View the entire Official List of Public Waters [pdf]. In the event of a dispute, the OLPW as posted on the DES website or as distributed by the Public Information and Permitting Unit or State Library will govern.

Perform a Query At this site, you can narrow your search of the Official List of Public Waters database. For instance, you can obtain a list of all the waterbodies of 10 acres or more in a specific town, or of all great ponds in New Hampshire.

Natural Mean High Water Elevations [pdf] The State owns the beds of all great ponds, up to the elevation of natural mean high water. DES has determined the natural mean high water elevations at a few of New Hampshire's great ponds.