Report of the Land & Water Resources Council
to the
Natural Resources Committee
of the
123rd Maine Legislature, 1st Regular Session
Pursuant to P.L. 2005, Chapter 452

Review and Recommendations
Regarding Ground Water Regulations

January 10, 2007
Prepared by staff of the Maine Geological Survey

Also available in a 708 kb PDF version

Executive Summary

In 2005, 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 directs the Land and Water Resources Council to conduct a comprehensive review by November 2006 of Maine's regulations governing ground water withdrawals through the formation of a work group. The primary charge to the group was to identify any changes in state law needed to ensure a consistent, integrated and scientifically sound state policy that ensures that the withdrawal of groundwater does not have an undue adverse effect on waters of the State. Participants in the group represented a broad spectrum of interests with regard to ground water activities. (See Appendix 2 - Meeting Participants.)

The group met eleven times through the year. The first few meetings provided an introduction and background information on Maine's water resources and current regulatory setting. Discussions during the remaining meetings focused on new approaches to groundwater regulation. A preliminary analysis of watersheds at risk conducted by the Maine Geological Survey was instrumental in focusing the recommendations of this report.

This report presents the findings and recommendations developed by the work group which the Council approved at its December 14, 2006 meeting.


1. Watershed approach.

This group endorsed a watershed approach to addressing water issues. Scarce resources could be focused on watersheds where there is potential for problems rather than applying a new approach on a statewide basis. The watershed approach to addressing water issues should be built on a tiered system:

  • Tier 1: Conduct full assessment of water supply and demand, including build-out analysis of community water needs.
  • Tier 2: If Tier 1 analysis indicates need, work with parties to develop a water-use management plan for the watershed.
  • Tier 3: If over-subscription of water use remains after Tier 2 analysis, there may be a need for a binding dispute resolution process to resolve issues.

2. Ground Water Committee

Establish a Ground Water Committee under the Land and Water Resources Council. The committee would consist of state agency staff with ground water responsibilities and expertise and would be advisory to the Land and Water Resources Council. The Committee would have the following responsibilities:

  • Review ground water withdrawal activities.
  • Coordinate state ground water information.
  • Direct appropriate ground water investigations in "watersheds at risk."
  • Convene planning groups of stakeholders as needed to address withdrawals in "watersheds at risk", in significant local aquifers, or in multi-municipal ground water issues.
  • Provide assistance to towns.
  • Develop and disseminate educational materials on water resources, regulatory regime. See the next recommendation.

3. Education on water science and current regulatory rigor.

The Ground Water Committee described in Recommendation 2 would be charged with the following:

  • Develop education materials that clearly describe the various regulations governing ground water withdrawals and how agencies interact in their implementation.
  • Disseminate this information via meetings, conferences, internet resources, and other means.

4. Changes to regulations

  • Drilled Well Reporting: Change definition to include all wells for water withdrawal.
  • Natural Resource Protection Act: Modifications to NRPA to address non-agricultural high-yield wells.
  • Bulk Water: The group recommends that the Legislature review the predicate findings to see if they are relevant.
  • Agricultural wells: High-yield agricultural wells would be reviewed by the Agricultural Water Management Board under a farm plan.
  • Public Water Supplies: No changes are recommended to the regulations governing public water supplies.
  • LURC jurisdiction: LURC will review its standards and rules governing water withdrawal to identify and make changes as needed to:
    • clarify the existing regulations,
    • assure consistency with DEP and DHHS, where applicable, and
    • assure that the Commission's statutory authority over groundwater withdrawal is clearly reflected.


Funds for aquifer investigations in watersheds at risk will cost $100,000 annually. The Maine Geological Survey will contribute an additional $120,000 to this effort by redirecting 1.5 FTE hydrogeologists.

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Last updated on February 5, 2007