State Drought Task Force Convenes to Discuss Drought Conditions
August 4, 2016
The State’s Drought Task Force (DTF) convened today for the first time in 14 years. At that time, drought conditions were more severe than they are today. The DTF assists in monitoring, coordinating, and managing responses to droughts and recommends actions to minimize impacts to public health, safety, the environment and agriculture.
“We have been monitoring the situation for some time because of the low snowfall last winter,” said Bruce Fitzgerald, Director of Maine Emergency Management Agency. “State weather and water level experts are keeping us informed and although there have been no reports of major issues related to the dry weather conditions, water levels have changed in the last couple of weeks.”
The DTF is composed of state, federal and private scientific, agricultural, regulatory, water use and natural resources organizations.
The National Weather Service reported that precipitation levels had been down for the last six months and that dry weather conditions were expected to continue for at least the next few weeks. A dry fall combined with another low snowfall this winter could worsen drought conditions.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that 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.
“Particularly, groundwater wells in Sanford and Poland indicated the lowest levels we've seen in the month of July in the last 2-3 decades,” said Nicholas Stasulis, Data Section Chief, U.S. Geological Survey. “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.”
Representatives from the Department of Agriculture reported that farmers in the north are reporting no issues, but those in the southern part of the state are concerned about water levels in wells.
Although no restrictions have been placed on water usage, citizens 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 maineprepares.com.
The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation and plans to meet again in about a month. Reports will be available online at www.state.me.us/mema or can be obtained from MEMA by calling 207-624-4400.