AUGUSTA — The state’s Drought Task Force is meeting Thursday for the first time in two years following dry weather that began last winter and has extended into the summer.

The task force – which includes public safety officials and weather experts from a variety of state and federal agencies – will meet in Augusta to discuss the potential for wells drying up and increased fire risk this fall should dry conditions continue.

“There’s been no need for a number of years for the state’s task force to meet, because we haven’t had an issue,” said Sean Goodwin, director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. “We’re getting so we have an issue. We are in the beginning steps of a drought. Things are dry. They always get dry, but not this dry.”

The dry conditions have left groundwater levels depleted in central and southern Maine.

The U.S. Geologic Survey monitors wells across the state, including ones in Poland, Sanford and Augusta that currently have low water levels, said Nicholas Stasulis, a hydrologic technician in the agency’s Maine office. Poland and Sanford’s were the lowest on record for the month of July, Stasulis said.

“I have a feeling Augusta will soon be measuring the lowest water levels we’ve seen for August,” he said.

Not all the sites monitored by the agency are depleted – far northern Maine actually has above-normal levels of ground and surface water, Stasulis noted. Still, he said, the current drought conditions in the southern two-thirds of the state are significant and worsening.

“Groundwater tends to be lowest in the summer-fall period,” he said. “We would be naturally receding anyways at this point in the year, but if we don’t get any precipitation, it’s going to be a lot lower than normal. If we don’t get any sort of recharge, in the form of significant fall storms, those water levels will remain low through the winter.”

When the groundwater levels drop, wells can run dry.

Goodwin, the Kennebec County emergency management official, said he has not received any such reports so far this summer.

Ed Bowie, owner of Bowie Bros. Well Drilling in Farmingdale, said he has received three calls this summer from homeowners whose wells have been losing pressure. It’s a particular risk for homeowners who have shallow wells, as opposed to those drilled hundreds of feet into bedrock, Bowie said.

“Those guys who depend on rainfall are hurting,” he said. Bowie said he received no reports of wells losing pressure last summer.

But Ted Rolfe, who runs the Rolfe’s Well Drilling company and often partners with Bowie on projects, downplayed the current risks to local well owners.

“Most people in Maine conserve water anyhow,” he said. “For those people who don’t water their grass, and they only use water inside the house for domestic issues, you shouldn’t have any issue at all. You just don’t want to fill the swimming pool or run the hose for hours.”

It’s also not clear when the dry spell will break.

“The pattern that we’re in has been a dry pattern, generally speaking,” said Bob Marine, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s forecast station in Gray. “We don’t really foresee any major changes in that.”

Augusta received just 1.96 inches of rain in July, according to meteorological data collected at the Augusta State Airport. That’s down 43 percent from the monthly average of 3.42 inches, Marine noted.

Portland averages 3.61 inches of rain in July, but received just 1.7 inches this year.

While a round of precipitation can be expected every few days, including one this weekend, Marine went on, “it’s hard to predict any kind of major (rainstorm) all the way to September.”

Part of the purpose of Thursday’s meeting will be for emergency planning officials to hear long-range weather forecasts and determine what steps to take if things remain dry, Goodwin said. Depending on the discussion, state emergency management officials could issue a warning about the dry conditions, he said.

In the event of area wells running dry, Goodwin said, officials also will discuss potential alternate sources of water. In the past, some Kennebec County residents who have lost their water have gone to nearby fire departments that are on a municipal water supply.

“We can’t make it rain,” he said. “The rain dance just doesn’t work, but you can take what resources you have and just use them more wisely.”

Fire departments also will be on guard against dry conditions heading into the fall, when vegetation starts dying and the fire risk becomes greater, Goodwin said.

The task force will meet 9 a.m. in Augusta.