U.S. Water News Online
PORTLAND, Maine -- Following heavier-than-normal rainfall
this spring, there's plenty of water in Maine's lakes and ponds.
Rivers used by endangered wild Atlantic salmon are in relatively good
shape. There's so much water in the fields that it's creating
headaches for some farmers.
It would appear that Maine's drought is all but over. But
officials are stopping short of making such a declaration.
Despite plenty of water on the surface -- enough to frustrate
farmers with waterlogged fields -- there are still concerns about the
water below, said Tom Hawley of the National Weather Service in Gray.
``I know people don't understand that we have all this water on
the surface but we don't have the water underground,'' Hawley, a
hydrologist, admitted. ``It's hard to get that message across.''
Earlier this year, more than 1,500 families reported that their
wells went dry following the driest year on record in Maine. It was
bad enough for the governor to seek a federal disaster declaration.
The National Weather Service said steady rain was what the state
needed, and steady rain was what the state got.
In April, the rainfall was 1 to 2 inches above normal in southern
and western Maine, and it was average in May, Hawley said. June has
been 1 to 2 inches above normal so far, he said.
Bob Lent of the U.S. Geological Survey said the slow, steady rain
was just what the parched state needed.
``If you would have asked me two months ago to describe what would
be ideal conditions to treat this drought as quickly as possible, I
would describe something similar to what we've had,'' he said.
The rain means reservoirs, lakes, ponds and rivers are in good
shape, and many dry wells have been replenished.
In Brownfield, Donald York now has enough water to take a shower
after being forced to take baths in a galvanized tub in his kitchen
after his shallow ``dug'' well went dry in late October.
But he's still frugal with his tap for fear the well may run dry
He doesn't dare wash his car or water his lawn, and he doesn't
have time to savor his all-too-brief showers. ``We take care. We
don't take too many showers. We don't flush the toilet that much,''
said York, 82.
About one or two people a week are still contacting the state to
report that their wells have gone dry, said Lynette Miller, senior
planner with the Maine Emergency Management Agency in Augusta.
And groundwater levels are still below normal around Bangor,
Waterville and Augusta, and points south, Lent said.
That's why the drought remains in effect in those regions, pending
a meeting of the state drought task force later this month.
For farmers, it's hard to swallow.
``What drought?'' asked Agriculture Commissioner Bob Spear. ``You
don't want to tell a farmer we're in a drought right now.'' Spear
noted that the cold, wet weather delayed planting and hay harvesting.
Some farmers had to replant.
Tim Bartlett of New Gloucester had standing water on his fields
and was behind on harvesting his hay.
``It rains about every other day, or every third day. It's hard to
make hay when the ground's wet. We're getting behind schedule because
of the rain,'' said Bartlett, who had harvested only 65 of his 350
acres of hay.
Bartlett knows the state needs the rain. Nonetheless, he said,
``It has become more of a hindrance than a help.''
Lent said there's a good reason why officials are reluctant to
declare that the drought is over: a review of recent history.
During Maine's last three droughts, in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s,
each lasted about four years. Each time, there was a brief wet
period, and each time the drought returned before leaving for good,
The key, for now, is the long-term forecast, he said.
The weather service's outlook for July, August and September calls
for normal rainfall and normal temperatures. But it wouldn't take too
much hot, dry weather to send the state back into severe drought
``If we get anything close to dry conditions, we can quickly
return to conditions we had last year,'' Lent said.
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