LD 1643/ Public Law chapter 452
Work Group - Review of Ground Water Regulations 2005-2006
July 14, 2006

Meeting Notes

Goal for this meeting: Review the analysis of "watersheds at risk" conducted by the Maine Geological Survey, try to achieve consensus on some of the concepts in a ground water coordination and adjustments to regulations.

1. Watersheds at risk

Marc Loiselle reviewed his effort since the last meeting in analyzing watersheds at risk with existing information on watersheds, water availability, and water use.

  • This is a first-cut analysis that uses the streamflow equations developed by the USGS in 2004. The uncertainties in these equations may be as much as ±25%. Uncertainties are amplified by using the monthly equations in aggregate to establish seasonal flows.
  • This effort uses the so-called 12-digit watersheds as defined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This digital dataset is the most detailed, complete dataset of watersheds for the state. With the current dataset, it is not possible to analyze the contribution of upstream watersheds to the outflow of each watershed.
  • The analysis uses the thresholds for in-stream flows proposed in the in-stream flow rules currently under review by the Board of Environmental Protection. These flows are used to establish minimum annual flows out of watersheds and the amount of water on an annual basis that might be available for other uses.
  • The analysis used best available water use information from the Water Use Reporting Program and other databases to estimate annual consumptive water use in a watershed.
  • Estimates of domestic water use came from applying the percentage of the population on private wells from the 1990 census (the last time this information was requested) to the 2000 population data and then applying a daily per capita water use figure.
  • Currently the analysis does not include agricultural water use because of the statutory limitation on access to detailed information. In a future analysis we can approximate agricultural use on a coarser scale.
  • This analysis provides a discussion point for the boundaries of what should be considered "at risk." The summary map looks at the cumulative water uses as a percentage of "available" water - the water that is not required to maintain in-stream flows. In two summary maps, we highlighted the watersheds wherein cumulative use was at or above 80% of available water and 90% of available water. These watersheds are mostly in the south and west where population is focused.
  • The outcomes could change with the inclusion of agricultural water use and with changes about the assumption of what percentage of domestic use is consumptive. If the analysis were done on the more detailed 14-digit watershed level, there would probably be more watersheds identified, but less cumulative area in those watersheds.

NOTE: We will not be putting this analysis on the Ground Water website at this time. We need to develop more detailed explanatory materials before making this widely available and that effort must wait until most of MGS's current field responsibilities are completed.

Discussion of analysis: The group commended Marc for his effort, the quality of his analysis and presentation. Within the group, the comfort level with this analysis really depends on where the thresholds fall. How do we define a "watershed at risk?" In part, the answer to this may come from taking one or more of these watersheds and doing a more detailed analysis.

Additional work that could be done to improve the analysis:

  • Review all water uses in potential "watersheds at risk" to ensure their volumes and locations are correct. Make sure we have all the available data on water use.
  • Separate surface and ground water uses. Sustainability of individual aquifers was not part of this effort and will require a substantially more rigorous and expensive effort to accomplish that is beyond MGS's current resources.
  • Consider a worst case drought scenario.

2. Review of proposed concept for agency coordination

Marvinney outlined a concept for a Ground Water Committee under the Land and Water Resources Council. This could be established by Executive Order and would have the following responsibilities:

  1. Review ground water withdrawal activities (not a permitting agency).
  2. Convene planning groups of stakeholders as needed to address withdrawals in "watersheds at risk" or multi-municipal ground water issues. (This would be similar to the WUMP process for eastern Maine.)
  3. Direct appropriate ground water investigations in "watersheds at risk."
  4. Coordinate state ground water information.
  5. Provide "guidance" to towns.
  6. Develop and disseminate educational materials on water resources, regulatory regime.


  • There should be an opportunity for a town to petition this group to consider ground water issues in a town.
  • This group could possibly represent a clearinghouse for grants to municipalities to address some specific issues.
  • This committee might also initiate a planning effort in "watersheds at risk" rather than coming only from outside requests.
  • This committee is not a political mediator and would not address individual landowner issues regarding water rights.

Summary: When asked about consensus to move forward with this concept, no dissention was expressed by participants in this meeting.

3. Review of regulatory "tweaks"

The group discussed some potential changes to regulations as presented in an outline that Marvinney forwarded prior to the meeting.


  • The LURC Commissioners agreed that some adjustments are required to LURC regulations with regard to consumptive uses - some clarification.
  • The meeting participants raised no issues with the concept to modify the well drillers' reporting requirement to include wells drilled for any ground water withdrawals. Currently the regulation is only for wells for potable water, but in reality the MGS receives information from drillers for other types of wells too. We need to review this with the Well Drillers Commission.
  • Irrigation wells. John Harker outlined a concept that places review of irrigation wells under the Agricultural Water Management Board. This would be a proactive approach that works with farmers early in the water management planning process. Other agencies could act in an advisory capacity. John emphasized that this was a very preliminary concept that had yet to be considered by the agricultural community. John will circulate this concept for comment.
  • Site Law/NRPA. This would look at impacts of wells at locations that do not trigger Site Law review (less than 3 acres of disturbed area). There could be a better match between LURC and DEP regulations. This concept will need further development and outreach to other constituents not represented in this group.
  • Drinking Water Program. There would need to be review of any proposed changes by federal and state authorities. Some meeting participants feel that the DWP program already considers the key elements in its existing authority. The "adverse impact" language is problematical and there must be a process that recognizes special situations when seeking new sources; for example, new sources needed because of contamination.
  • Place the "Development of Consistent Hydrogeological Review Procedures" on line and have other experts review it. This could be a basis for developing consistency across regulations.

Representative Eberle offered that she was very pleased with the effort that everyone is putting in, and that the group was actually very close to consensus and a good result. She recently attended a national meeting of state legislators and noted that many states have serious water issues. She will support additional resources that the group proposes.

Tasks for next meeting

  • Outline report, write intro sections
  • Amend the Ground Water Committee concept with comments from this meeting
  • Put more detail to regulatory changes

Next meeting

September 8, 2006


J. Austin, Maine Municipal Association
D. Bell, Agricultural Council of Maine
G. Bergoffen, Fryeburg
D. Braley, Drinking Water Program
T. Brennan, Nestle Waters/Poland Spring
J. Delahanty, Pierce Atwood LLC
J. Eberle, Maine House of Representatives
P. Gauvreau, Office of the Attorney General
T. Glidden, Maine SPO
J. Harker, Maine Department of Agriculture
K. Hebert, Maine Rural Water Association
A. Hodsdon, A.E. Hodsdon Associates
J. Hopeck, Maine Department of Environmental Protection
M. Loiselle, Maine Geological Survey
R. Knowlton, Aqua Maine Inc.
M. Margerum, Maine DEP
R. Marvinney, Maine Geological Survey
J. McKee, Town of Kingfield
J. McNelly, Maine Water Utilities Association
M. Spencer-Famous, LURC
A. Wong, Maine Rural Water Association

Last updated on September 5, 2006