New wells may put Midcoast water supply at risk

By on Wed, April 29, 2009

Groundwater is so scarce in parts of the Midcoast that in a dry year, water levels can fall far enough to endanger the water supply, even if no further wells are dug, according to the County Times’s report on the county’s groundwater report.

"I think a safe and sustainable water supply is crucial to a community’s public health," said Steve Monowitz, long range planning services manager for the county. "And if an individual homeowner drills a well that impacts the community, that’s something the county needs to review when it considers new development proposals."

"What I took away from the report is that all the basins are at risk of problems in dry or very dry years, not just the granite areas. I wouldn’t limit the possibility of banning wells to the granite rock areas," Monowitz added.

The county report has been in the works for at least six years and in some cases, is more notable for the information it doesn’t provide than what it does.

The purpose of the study was to gauge how much groundwater could safely be extracted over the long term without exceeding the amount replenished by rainfall each year, as well as to determine environmental impacts.

But this could not be achieved because of lack of well data and accurate stream-flow measurements. Of the 1,097 wells in the county’s database, only half gave crucial details like their location and how much water they can produce.

Two or more consecutive dry years can cause the water table to drop all the way down to sea level and even below sea level, raising the risk of saltwater intrusion in the groundwater aquifer. The Midcoast is in its second consecutive dry year right now, but officials can’t say what the effects have been. The county is not monitoring any wells on a long-term basis.