Several Maine Voices columns and recent letters focused on groundwater withdrawals illustrate several misconceptions about the regulation of Maine’s water resources.

Every large-volume groundwater withdrawal that is not for public water or irrigation must be permitted, either under Maine’s Site Location Law, the Bulk Water Transport Law, the Significant Well rules or through the Land Use Regulation Commission.

The applicant must conduct extensive hydrogeological analysis of the resource to demonstrate minimal impact on other water uses, including nearby wells, wetlands, streams, lakes and other water-dependent ecosystems.

All permits include monitoring requirements and have withdrawal limits that can be adjusted downward as the variability of our annual climate demands. Withdrawals that have the potential to dry up wetlands or cloud pristine lake water will not be permitted under these strict regulations.

In 2009 the Legislature directed the Citizen Trade Policy Commission and the Water Resources Planning Committee to address the potential for international trade agreements to compromise Maine’s groundwater regulations. Co-chaired by Rep. Peggy Rotundo and me, this review involved five joint meetings, a public hearing, and numerous legal briefs.

The 38 members of these two groups unanimously approved conclusions that included this concept: The best defense against challenges under international trade agreements is to adopt regulations that are clear, reasonable, have a sound basis, are applied equitably and that are established through due process. Maine has such a body of regulations.

One writer claimed that groundwater withdrawals for bottled water now measure in the trillions of gallons. In fact, all withdrawals from dozens of locations for bottling total around 700 million gallons annually — four orders of magnitude less.

Notably, just one southern Maine public water system has withdrawn around 900 million gallons annually from one location for decades without impact to wetlands or other water-dependent resources.

 


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