AUGUSTA — The ground is covered with snow and starting to freeze across northern New England, but that doesn’t mean the drought is over.

Most of Maine remains in a severe drought going into the winter, and the freezing ground means there won’t be any major groundwater replenishment until the spring, when the snow melts, said Tom Hawley, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

Surface water levels across the state are now in the normal range, but groundwater levels are going to take longer to recover. Much will depend on the level of the snowpack.

“We just hope we can build up the snowpack so we have a decent amount of snow on the ground for the spring melt,” Hawley said.

The Maine Drought Task Force was told Friday that the situation has improved since September and October, when officials were carefully monitoring some public water supplies.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency is aware of only two reports of dry wells in the past two weeks, compared to hundreds over the course of the summer and earlier in the fall.

Recent weeks have brought rain and snow to the region, and more precipitation is on tap for next week. But the long-term forecast is uncertain.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration currently projects equal chances of this winter having above-normal or below-normal precipitation.

The Maine State Housing Authority has received another infusion of emergency funding – $200,000 – to help low-income residents drill new wells, said MEMA Director Bruce Fitzgerald. The agency received $250,000 over the summer, and that was “gone in a flash,” he said.

Poland Spring, the Good Shepherd Food Bank and the American Red Cross are partnering to get bottled water to people whose wells dry up, he said.

Looking forward, water districts, farmers and others who are big consumers of water need to be thinking ahead in the event dry conditions persist, Fitzgerald said.


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