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Environment and Outdoors

Maine, Suffering from Moderate Drought, Not Yet in Serious Trouble

It has been a dry spring and summer so far across New England. Southern New Hampshire and parts of Maine are coping with parched conditions, but it’s not all bad news.

In New Hampshire, several municipalities have instituted water restrictions through October. In Maine, Portland’s rainfall levels are lagging by about 4 inches.

“Southern Maine here is in what we’d consider a moderate drought category right now,” says Tom Hawley, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. “Extreme southern York County is in a severe drought.”

Municipalities such as Alfred, Waterboro and Sanford say they’re doing fine for now. Ironically, the economic downturn is at least partially to thank for that, says David Parent, superintendent for Sanford’s water supply, which serves about 15,000 people. Towns like Sanford have lost commercial customers since 2008.

“If it was the old days when we still had a lot of industrial usage, we might be hurting right now, but because we’ve lost a lot of industry in Sanford and we’ve lost a lot of the consumption that goes with it, we’re actually in great shape right now — we do not have any issues with water supply and have no plans for asking anyone to conserve,” he says.

Parent knows of no municipalities in York County that are in dire straights. Most of them have diversified their water supplies. And he says it would take about three years for most towns to run into serious trouble, but he cautions that water tables across the board are low — about two feet below normal.

Hawley says a little rain is expected by the end of the week in southern Maine, but he doesn’t sound optimistic.

“[I] doubt very seriously it will be enough to break the drought down here,” he says.

Hawley says there’s no significant rain projected in the long-range forecast. He says it may take the remnants of a tropical storm in late summer to bring any real relief.