Following a winter with low snowfall and summer with diminished rainfall, The Maine State Drought Task Force convened this week for the first time in 14 years. The task force helps monitor, coordinate and manage responses to droughts and recommends actions to minimize impacts to public health, safety, the environment and agriculture. 

Bruce Fitzgerald, Director of Maine Emergency Management Agency, says state weather and water level experts are keeping members informed as water levels drop.

The DTF is composed of state, federal and private scientific, agricultural, regulatory, water use and natural resources organizations. They last convened during a serious drought in 2002.

100-yr drought on the St. John River at Ninemile, Maine (September 2002)/USGS

The National Weather Service says that precipitation levels had been down for the last six months and that dry weather conditions were expected to continue through August. Fitzgerald says a dry fall combined with another low snowfall this winter could worsen drought conditions.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports surface water and groundwater levels in July were generally normal in the northern half of Maine, but below normal in the southern half of the state.

US Drought Monitor - Maine

Nicholas Stasulis, Data Section Chief, U.S. Geological Survey, says groundwater well in Sandford and Poland indicate the lowest July levels since the early 1990's. “Current surface water levels indicate a moderate to severe hydrologic drought for basins in the lower two-thirds of the state. Groundwater and surface water levels are well below normal for this time of year, especially in the southern half of Maine.”

Maine's Department of Agriculture says farmers in northern Maine are reporting no major issues, but those in the southern part of the state are concerned about water levels in wells.

Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images

Although no restrictions have been placed on water usage, the task force says Mainers can take steps to conserve and preserve the integrity of the water supply by doing 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.
  • Those using public water should heed restrictions set by the water utility.
  • 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.
  • Report water supply problems to your town. They may be able to offer some assistance, and can let the county and the state know about problems in your community.

Additional tips for conserving water are available at the Maine Prepares website.

The task force plans to meet again early September. Reports will be available online at the Maine Emergency Management Agency website and can be obtained from MEMA by calling 207-624-4400.