A contractor drills holes near a seam of water in a rural Kennebunk farm pond in September – but the action didn’t result in a hefty surge of water that homeowner Peter Brewitt was hoping would happen. Water flled the drilled holes, he said, but there was no pressure behind it at all – a signal of the low water table. The farm pond is down about 7 feet. Courtesy Photo/Peter Brewitt

KENNEBUNK — Lawns are dry and brown, and the leaves of deciduous trees began to curl and fall while still green. Streams are reduced to a trickle in some locations and the water level in some farm ponds is down feet, not inches.

Some homeowners with private wells are experiencing shortages, or have had wells run dry.

Those who rely on Maine Water or Kennebunk, Kennebunkport & Wells Water District can rest easy, utility representatives say — their supply is not in danger.

Still, it is very dry, and there has not been much rain in York County save about half an inch on Sept. 30, and as of Monday afternoon, there wasn’t much in the forecast save a report of scattered showers that were due Wednesday, Oct. 7.

State officials say York County is in the “extreme” stage when it comes to drought.

And a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray said the highest precipitation deficits are along the coast.

“In the last 30 days, York County is down three to four inches; going back three months, deficits are four to six inches, and for the year to date, York County (rainfall) is 10 to 15 inches below average,” said meteorologist Hunter Tubbs on Oct. 5.

According to the Maine Emergency Management Agency, there were 29 reports of dry private wells in York County as of Oct. 2 — though just four of them were reported in coastal regions — one in Kennebunk and three others in Wells. The agency is encouraging people with dry wells to report them, at: https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/49fef6c94fd34a6a9804175ae4a3ad93?portalUrl=https://maine.maps.arcgis.com

There are some programs available to low income Mainers with wells that need repairs or replacement through the Maine State Housing Authority according to a news release from the Maine Drought Task Force. Aid may also be sought through USDA Rural Development. MEMA noted that in both cases, funds will have to be made available, the latter through the U.S. Congress, before loans or grants can be made.

In rural Kennebunk, resident Peter Brewitt said the water level in his farm pond is down about seven feet — a foot more than three years ago, and two feet more than last year.

He said a dowser friend who had located a water seam in a piece of ledge at the bottom of the pond when it was first dug came back in September, found the seam and noted it was down three to four feet. Brewitt said he engaged a drilling company and had hoped to get a big stream of water — but was disappointed.

“There is such a lack of water in the ground, there is no pressure whatsoever in the seam, so all the holes just filled up to the level of the pond, which represents where the water table is,” said Brewitt.

He said the family’s artesian well is in a different seam, and is unaffected.

Brewitt predicted it will take a couple of years and a massive turn around in the weather for the pond to return to normal.

Tubbs, of NOAA in Gray, agrees, and laid out three scenarios he said may help — a dying tropical system, which he said seems unlikely now, a nor’easter later in the fall, or heavy snowfall this winter.

He said the Climate Prediction center will likely issue their winter forecast in a couple of weeks. Through December, Tubbs said, Maine is forecast to have above normal temperatures and a 50 percent chance of rainfall either above or below normal.

“We definitely need to get a pretty good soaking” to make a difference, Tubbs said.

Rich Knowlton, president of Maine Water, said customers do not have to worry about supply, though the utility promotes the wise use of the water resources.

Maine Water serves about 40,000 people in in Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, and the Pine Point area of Scarborough from the water treatment facility in Biddeford on the Saco River, said Knowlton.

“While the Saco has been impacted by the drought, the river has tremendous capacity to meet the needs of our public water system and to assist other water systems if needed,” he said.

“Currently, river flow past our treatment facility is approximately 400 million gallons per day, less than half of the average flow for this time of year, and well below the average daily flow of 2 billion gallons per day over a full year,” said Knowlton. “Maine Water Company withdraws between 5 and 8 million gallons of water per day, so public water use currently is between 1 and 2 percent of the total flow in the river. In normal conditions, this figure is well less than 1 percent.”

KK& W serves about 14,200 customers in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Arundel, and some in York and Biddeford Pool, said Superintendent Steve Cox, who also said customers do not have to worry.

“Our primary source continues to be the surface water of Branch Brook, which is filtered and disinfected at our treatment plant,” said Cox. “We also have four groundwater sources drawing from three different local aquifers. ”

Both Cox and Knowlton noted the collaboration among area water utilities and the ability for each of them, along with others, to call on each other in an emergency.

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