ROCKLAND — Drought conditions have dominated the summer in Maine this year choking lawns, busying gardeners and drying local wells.

“A lot of wells are running dry,” said Jack Martin, co-owner of Haskell’s Water Treatment in Rockland. “It keeps us scrambling.”

He said he has seen the problem in Knox and Waldo counties. He has been getting the calls for about three weeks.

In some cases, he said, people need to drill new wells after one goes dry. However, he urges residents to be careful in their water usage to keep the wells from drying out completely. Simple steps like not having a large group of people all take showers in a row can save a well.

“Virtually all of Knox County (98.52% by area) has been in Severe Drought since the U.S. Drought Monitor upgraded these conditions on August 4,” according to Samuel Roy of the Maine Emergency Management Agency. “The estimated population in the impacted area is 39,736 (99.8% of total population).”

The Dry Well Survey reports 4 dry wells have been reported in Knox County from July 14 to Aug. 15. Some may not yet have been reported. If you have a dry well, report it to https://maine-dry-well-survey-maine.hub.arcgis.com/

Gardeners in the area are reporting mixed results. In some cases, with careful watering, the plants are doing fine, especially those that enjoy plenty of heat and sunshine.

Dry, parched soil has been the gardener’s lament this summer. Photo by Daniel Dunkle

James Keller of Rockland said he tries to offset what he does for his garden by taking other conservation measure including taking fewer showers.

“You don’t have to wait for global warming,” he said. “It’s already here.”

Those who receive water from Maine Water likely do not need to worry at this point, according to Maine Water Director of Corporate Communications Dan Meaney.

“Levels at Mirror Lake are within what we consider to be normal for this time of summer,” he said. “They are certainly lower than this time last year when we had more precipitation than usual. In addition, our supplemental water storage at Grassy Pond is within normal range and supplements Mirror Lake, as needed.”

“Currently, we have not requested any specific conservation measures because of the drought,” he added. “We constantly monitor lake levels and water usage and will request specific conservation measures should that become necessary. Further, we would notify customers directly with our text/phone/email communication system and alert the media.”

“This is a typical pattern, but a very dry summer,” Meaney said. “Typically, lakes are full heading into summer thanks to rain, snowmelt and reduced customer usage in winter months. During the summer, Mirror Lake is drawn down to meet increased water supply needs. The lowest point is typically late summer and early fall. As the weather cools and we head into winter and spring, the lake is replenished and we start the cycle again. On occasion drought conditions last into the fall and winter and it is a greater concern when the lake is not at capacity at the start of spring.”

That said, Maine Water offers water conservation tips on its website at http://www.mainewater.com/conservation.

“In the United States, 9 billion gallons of water are used daily for residential outdoor water use, mainly for landscape irrigation,” the site states. “It’s estimated that about 50% of this water is wasted, in part due to overwatering.”

Among the suggestions:

“Step on your lawn; if the grass springs back, it doesn’t need water

“Let your grass grow – Longer grass absorbs more sunlight making it stronger, thicker, more resistant to weeds and less prone to water loss from evaporation…”

Other options for outside include making sure hose fittings are not leaking, investing in rain barrels, using buckets rather than hoses to wash cars and brooms rather than water to clean driveways.

Indoors it is important to make sure toilets do not leak or keep running, to wash dishes using dishwashers when possible and not to leave water running for activities such as brushing teeth and shaving.