The drought gripping southern Maine has gotten so severe that one water district is resorting to piping in water from another district.

The York Water District plans to draw water from the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District starting early next week and will ask York residents to limit their water use because its reservoir level has dropped more than 4 feet.

The unusual steps come as the federal government officially declared Thursday that southernmost Maine is experiencing an extreme drought.

Parts of southern York County – including the town of York – have been upgraded from severe to extreme drought conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor announced. Severe drought to abnormally dry conditions are reported across southern and central Maine.

York will pipe in 500,000 to 1 million gallons a day from the Kennebunk district for 30 days beginning Tuesday or Wednesday, said Don Neumann, superintendent of the York Water District. The district also has asked local fire departments to avoid using additional water for training and will ask residents to cut back on watering lawns.

Neumann said taking water from Kennebunk will allow the York district to reduce the amount of water it must draw from Chase’s Pond, York’s water source. The water level in Chase’s Pond is down about 4.5 feet. After a drought in 1993, the pond was down 6.1 feet, the lowest since the district started keeping records 25 years ago, he said.


“We’re at a point of concern, but we’re not panicked yet. We have a plan in place,” Neumann said. “Everyone is just waiting for rain.”

He said York will pay the Kennebunk district about $600 per one million gallons of water drawn under an existing connection agreement that established grounds for sharing resources.

The Kennebunk district also serves Ogunquit, Arundel and parts of Biddeford and York. Its main water source is Branch Brook, which originates near the Sanford Airport and flows 10 miles along the Kennebunk-Wells border.

Other coastal and southern Maine communities are closely watching their water supplies, although York has taken the most aggressive action and is the only one to supplement its supply, said Roger Crouse, manager of the Maine Drinking Water Program. Some districts were especially concerned as the drought worsened at the same time water usage peaked because of summer demand.

The Alfred Water District asked its 300 customers to be mindful of water usage last month as demand spiked, said Treasurer Michael Kucsma.

“We didn’t make any suggestions,” he said. “We asked them to be vigilant about the water they used.”


The situation is a bit brighter but cautious for the Yarmouth Water District. Its four gravel-packed wells are down a little but still pumping strong, said Superintendent Bob MacKinnon. His agency serves about 3,000 connections and 10,500 people in Yarmouth and North Yarmouth.

“We have more capacity than we do demand,” MacKinnon said. “That may change if we don’t get any recharge in the months ahead.”

MacKinnon noted that the Maine Drinking Water Program and the Maine Public Utilities Commission have begun requiring public water suppliers to submit monthly reports on the steps they’re taking to deal with the drought.

Precipitation totals are down significantly from last year across southern Maine, according to the Northeast River Forecast Center of the National Weather Service.

The average total precipitation in York County for the past 12 months is 35.78 inches, which is 13.85 inches below normal. In Cumberland County, the 12-month average total is 37.65 inches, down 11.05 inches from normal. And in Sagadahoc County, the 12-month average total is 35.73 inches, down 12.05 inches from normal.

The average daily demand in the town of York is 1.1 million gallons, but peak demand in the summer reaches 2.4 million gallons per day because of summer residents and tourists. Neumann said daily demand is down to about 1.3 million gallons right now.


The district has 5,300 customers in York, including both year-round and seasonal connections.

After droughts in 1993 and 2002, the York Water District put in pipes connecting it to the Kennebunk and Kittery districts. The districts have shared water with each other a few times, including in response to water main breaks.

Neumann said the existing connection will make for a seamless transition that residents are not likely to notice. He has asked local fire officials not to do extra training with water for the foreseeable future because use of hydrants could require the district to flush the system.

“For fires, they’ll use what they need and we’ll make sure the water is available,” Neumann said.

Next week, the district will send letters to homeowners with lawn irrigation systems asking them to water their lawns less frequently. “Hopefully the weather turns and everything will be fine,” he said.

Staff Writers Kelley Bouchard and Randy Billings contributed to this report.


Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: