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Review and Recommendations Regarding Ground Water Regulations
Maine has abundant water resources. In an average year more than 20,000 billion gallons fall on the Maine landscape. Perhaps one-third of this amount, 7,000 billion gallons, percolates into the ground to recharge the ground water system annually. By comparison, total ground water use in Maine from all sources, both reported and estimated, are around 20 billion gallons annually. While there are orders of magnitude of difference in supply relative to demand, ground water recharge occurs locally and ground water use can have important local consequences.
Over the past several years, the State has dealt with some concerns regarding ground water use. Some examples include: a public water supply and a source for a commercial bottler in the same small watershed, large volume irrigation wells developed to eliminate in-stream withdrawals, several irrigators in the same watershed as a public water supply. With the increasing demand for ground water resources, the potential for problems will increase. In the past year, ground water withdrawals for bottled water have increased significantly, with an expectation for increasing demand in future years. The agricultural community has been encouraged by wildlife and regulatory agencies to develop wells to meet irrigation water needs during critical low flow periods and plans to significantly increase irrigation in the coming years. Additionally, some community water supplies are looking for additional ground water sources. All of these uses can be accommodated with Maine's abundant resource as long as care is given to managing the resource in a sound fashion. Currently there is a broad net of regulations that govern many ground water withdrawals.
For these reasons and others, Governor Baldacci proposed and the Legislature passed LD 1643 in 2005 "An Act to Clarify and Harmonize State Policy on Groundwater Management." In June 2005, the Governor signed this bill into law as Public Law 2005 c. 452. This law has several provisions, but the one pertinent to this process directs the Land and Water Resources Council ("Council"), to conduct a comprehensive review by November 2006 of Maine's regulations governing ground water withdrawals. The law provides that the Maine Geological Survey (MGS) will be the lead agency for purposes of this study. The law further directs that a work group be formed to participate in the review process.
Charge to study group
The intent of LD 1643 is to promote development and implementation of consistent, integrated and scientifically sound state policy regarding groundwater management. The law provided several direct charges to this group:
Along with participation by agency staff with responsibilities in the ground water arena and legislators whose committees have jurisdiction in this area, the group included representation from the agricultural community, public water utilities, the water bottling industry, individuals with expertise in water law, and a private well owner. Additionally, representatives of several environmental organizations participated in the process. Several observers with expertise in water policy and water science also contributed to the process. A full listing of participants is provided in Appendix 2.
While the intent was to strive for consensus as a group, important differences made this impossible on all points. We tried to work from agreement on general issues, through more detailed proposals, although it was not always possible to agree on details of how to accomplish a broad goal.
Last updated on February 5, 2007
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