Duck Brook at the culvert under Route 3 is nearly dry. Acadia National Park staff who do stream sampling say the streams are so low this summer that it’s been difficult to get water samples or flow measurements. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Dry conditions bring water supply, fire worries

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Mount Desert Island is experiencing “moderate hydrologic drought.” 

Before the rain on Tuesday of this week, which totaled between a quarter and a third of an inch, the island had seen hardly any appreciable rain since a June 11 storm brought 2 inches, according to Bill Gawley, a biologist who manages air and water monitoring for Acadia National Park. 

The overall precipitation totals for the year are still well within the normal range. This year to date we’ve had 26.58 inches in one of the gauges in the park, he said. That’s well below last year at this time, when there were almost 41 inches, but it’s comparable to the four years before that, which averaged 28.5 inches by this time. 

But the dry conditions are definitely impacting private and public water supplies and putting fire agencies on high alert. 

On Friday, the Islesford Dock Restaurant and Gallery had to close when its well tapped out, according to its Facebook page. 

“We can anticipate an increase in the numbers of failing residential wells, along with challenges for municipal water districts, with fresh water sources suffering without replenishment through sustained rainfall,” said Andrew Sankey, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency. 

The USGS has a well near the park headquarters on McFarland Hill for groundwater measurements. Levels are only taken twice a month. The well is 98.2 feet deep and the last measurement was 21.82 feet below land surface, Gawley said, on Aug. 11. 

“That’s right in the same level that it’s been normally at this time of year,” he said. “So I don’t think we’re that far off.” 

But the streams and ponds in the park are definitely low. In the stream monitoring program, Gawley said, “it’s been challenging to even have enough water to take a water sample or get a flow measurement. It’s tough for the critters that live in there as well.” 

There have been several grass fires and wildfires in Hancock County in recent weeks. 

Given the seasonal lack of rainfall, the Wildland Urban Interface, of which the entirety of Hancock County lies within, is especially at risk for the possibility of wildfire that has potential to cause considerable damage to lives, properties and the environment,” Sankey saidThe forests that surround our homes and businesses here have a significant amount of fuel and the ease of ignition increases as dry conditions continue.”  

He said regional public safety agencies are collaborating to raise awareness of the dangers, restrict burn permits and encourage water conservation practices. For residential users, these include checking for leaks, running dishwashers and washing machines with full loads and spacing out water usage. 

The Maine Emergency Management Agency has convened a Drought Task Force. It’s also launching a dry well survey, available online at or by calling 211. Reporting a dry well does not guarantee assistance, the agency said, but will help officials gauge how widespread the problem is and what resources may be needed. 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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