AUGUSTA — Maine's Drought Task Force convened virtually Thursday to assess drought conditions across the state as the state has experienced drought conditions in some form for the last five years, after a period of 14 years with no significant drought conditions.
“We have been monitoring drought conditions in Maine for several weeks now,” said Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Rogers, in a news release. “Unfortunately, the lack of rain combined with a period of very warm temperatures has left every county in the state impacted, with about 47 percent of the state in moderate drought and the rest abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought monitor.”
“There could be some localized relief to the dry weather especially in northern Maine this weekend and into next week,” said Tom Hawley of the National Weather Service in Gray. “However, the overall trend is for warm weather and below normal precipitation which could worsen the drought over the next few weeks.”
Surface and groundwater levels were normal in March when the State's River Flow Advisory Commission met to assess flood threat in Maine, but drought conditions have rapidly evolved since mid-May causing what experts call a flash drought.
“The USGS has 36 stations where we monitor streamflow with 30 or more years of record, and nearly all of them are below normal for this time of year and some are the lowest level ever for a given day,” said Nicholas Stasulis, Data Section Chief, U.S. Geological Survey. “Groundwater conditions vary across the state, but overall those levels have been declining steadily since the spring runoff.”
The DTF is made up of state, federal and private scientific, agricultural, regulatory, water use and natural resources organizations and assists in monitoring, coordinating, and managing responses to droughts and recommends actions to minimize impacts to public health, safety, the environment and agriculture.
Several counties across the state are reporting cases of dry wells and impacts to agriculture. Citizens who may be experiencing low water levels in wells can take steps to conserve water and are reminded of the following:
• 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.
Additional tips for conserving water are available at Maine.gov/MEMA.
The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation and plans to convene again in two weeks. Reports will be available online at Maine.gov/MEMA or can be obtained from MEMA by calling 207-624-4400.