A New Hampshire lake at sunset


The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) coordinates many programs that guide land development activities along lakes throughout the state to keep lakes healthy. If you plan to clear land, trees, vegetation, disturb the ground, or install or build something near or along the lake, be sure to find out if you need a state permit.

Also, check with your municipality to see if you need a local permit. Many municipalities have additional and more stringent requirements for development near and along lakes.

nh lakes lake friendly landscaping

Alteration of Terrain Permit Program

This program protects New Hampshire’s lakes by controlling soil erosion and managing polluted runoff water from developed areas. This program applies to earth moving operations such as industrial, commercial, and residential developments. It also applies to sand pits, gravel pits, and rock quarries.

For more information, visit the DES website—click here.

Shoreland Permit Program

The Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act protects lake health by controlling soil erosion and reducing polluted runoff water within 250 feet of the lake. Setbacks from the lake are established for structures and septic systems. Setbacks are also established for the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Limits on the amount of surfaces that don’t absorb runoff (like rooftops, decks, patios, driveways, parking areas, and walkways) and the amount of vegetation that can be removed are also established.

For more information, visit the DES website—click here.

Wetlands Permit Program

The DES Wetlands Program protects and preserves lands under lakes and ponds and wetlands from unregulated activities that would negatively affect wetlands. Wetlands help keep lakes healthy by reducing flooding, filtering polluted runoff water, recharging groundwater, and supporting fish and wildlife of significant value.

If you plan to conduct work in a lake or pond, or in the bank of a lake or pond, you will need state permit. Typical activities that require permits include: building, expanding, or repairing a dock; constructing or repairing a retaining wall; and, adding sand to a beach or creating a new beach.

For more information, visit the DES website—click here.

Septic System Program

If you don’t know if or where a septic system is located on your property, you can request records from the DES Subsurface System Bureau—click here.

If you need to install, repair, upgrade a septic system near the lake, you will need a state permit. For more information, visit the DES Subsurface System Bureau website—click here.

For a listing of certified septic system evaluators, visit the Granite State Onsite Wastewater Association website—click here.

For information on licensed septic haulers, visit the GET PUMPED! New Hampshire website—click here.