Drought task force reports conditions remain dry with little precipitation expected

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 4:15pm

    AUGUSTA — Maine's Drought Task Force met virtually Thursday to discuss the worsening drought conditions across the state. Since the Task Force met two weeks ago, much of the state is experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, though Northern Aroostook County has seen a slight improvement with some localized rain.

    "Conditions may worsen over the next seven days statewide due to below normal rainfall and a continued trend of above normal temperatures," Tom Hawley of the National Weather Service said.

    The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Drinking Water Program (DWP) and Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN), reported receiving reports from public water systems experiencing drought-related water quantity and quality issues statewide. Several public water systems are taking steps to modify operations to accommodate low water, and some have requested that their customers participate in voluntary water conservation measures.

    “We continue to encourage anyone experiencing a dry well to report it via our Dry Well Survey,” said MEMA Deputy Director Joe Legee.

    MEMA launched the Dry Well Survey two weeks ago and has received some feedback of dry wells in Somerset, Waldo and Washington Counties.

    The reported wells are residential, dug wells. Anyone wishing to complete the survey without internet access can call 2-1-1. Completing the survey does not guarantee any type of assistance but helps the Task Force determine how widespread the problem may be and what resources may be needed.

    The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the recent rain provided a slight improvement to surface water levels in Aroostook County and parts of Downeast Maine. Ground water levels remain unchanged, especially in Aroostook County, prompting the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to issue an irrigation warning.

    The USDA Farm Service Agency reported a continued impact to most crops across the state, including potatoes, blueberries and cover crops and noted irrigation issues, especially in Aroostook County.

    The USDA is taking steps to assist farmers, ranchers and small businesses as the drought continues.

    Citizens who may be experiencing low water levels in wells are also encouraged to take the following steps:

    - Avoid filling wells by a water hauler or fire department. This could contaminate the owner's well because water from an unknown source may contain toxins and water would likely leak out in a short amount of time.

    - Check water systems for leaks and fix them. This can also save money for those on public water.

    - Ensure you have a full load before running dishwashers and washing machines.

    - Space out water usage to avoid a temporary shortage that could damage the pump.

    - If using drinking water from an outside source, make sure containers and the water source are clean.

    - Use a licensed well driller or pump installer to check water levels in wells for the most accurate assessment and advice and to avoid contamination.