Drought conditions have substantially worsened across southern and central portions of our state in recent weeks. According to a July report of the Drought Task Force, more than 75 percent of Mainers are now living in “abnormally dry or drought-stricken regions.”

That official declaration has nothing on the dusty trails, brown grass and other evidence that surrounds us. 

The town of Stonington is trucking in drinking water and will continue to. A brush fire in Harpswell burned for days before being brought under control. A dairy farmer with a nearly dry well called on the Auburn Fire Department for a tank of water for his herd. And according to the Dry Well Survey, 34 private wells have run dry since the start of 2021, the latest just last Sunday. 

Maine is crying out for a lengthy period of soaking rain. Roughly 6 inches is needed in the month of August to relieve moderate drought conditions. Meteorologists say the prayers of the state’s farmers and homesteaders are unlikely to be answered.

Six counties are in moderate drought, according to the most recent official readings, and eight have both abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions. Washington County is only abnormally dry, and Aroostook is right now the only county without drought or dry conditions. The lack of snowpack last winter (44.1 inches in the Portland area, for example, compared to an average of 65.4 inches) accelerated the aridity. 

The conditions are nightmarish for Maine farmers without irrigation systems capable of aggressive watering, who will lose crops. Drought also puts other industries that rely on large volumes of water under immense stress. 


There are examples of luck: District water supplies like Greater Portland’s are secure in the face of moderate drought. Sebago Lake, the second largest in Maine, holds about a trillion gallons of water, “enough to supply Portland Water District’s Needs needs for 100 years,” district spokeswoman Michelle Clements told the Press Herald – as a result, households and businesses haven’t been asked to conserve. 

Rain, we have no control over. We can and should, however, take action to reduce our water use before being asked to, or forced to. This summer, reports have encouraged small household conservation methods: shorter and more infrequent showers, decreased dishwasher use, repairing leaks, rethinking the investment in verdant lawns, skipping the car wash and holding off on new planting.

As recently as 2016, a Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet characterized the state as a place where drought conditions were “relatively rare.” Those days are gone.

Our crops, animals and we ourselves depend on water to survive. While water use restrictions, either voluntary or mandatory, are far from common in Maine, earnest attempts at conserving our most important natural resource should not wait until they are.

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