Kate Del Vecchio and her husband working at their farm in Richmond. Tender Soles Farm

The recent tropical rain has improved drought conditions in parts of Maine, according to a US Drought Monitor report issued Thursday, bringing a measure of relief to local farms.

According to the report, most areas in the southern coastal and Midcoast Maine have been upgraded from moderate drought to abnormally dry, the lowest of the five drought categories.

The report classifies 88.23% of the state as abnormally dry, a decrease from the previous month when the state was classified as 100% abnormally dry.

Meanwhile, Androscoggin County’s drought status has also improved.

“The Midcoast region did certainly benefit from the recent rains. Androscoggin County saw an improvement from a moderate drought category last week to an abnormally dry classification this week,” said Nicholas Stasulis, a water scientist from the United States Geological Survey. “The streamflow conditions in the region are above normal and groundwater conditions are in the normal range. However, any further improvement in the drought condition will depend on forecasted rain.”

According to the drought update from Androscoggin County Emergency Management Agency released earlier this month, for the drought condition to improve, Androscoggin County should receive 14 to 16 inches of rainfall over a total three-month period.

“The areas with hand-dug wells are most affected as these wells go dry quickly during the periods of drought when compared to the areas with drilled wells,” said Angela Molino, Director of Androscoggin County Emergency Management Agency. “Residents can adopt some water conservation habits easily by running the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads only, turning off the tap when not in use, and by checking water system leaks.”

As many as 107,702 people in Androscoggin county are affected by drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.

However, Stasulis said that though the recent rains have temporarily improved dry conditions in many parts of the state, rainfall deficits are still substantial and drought is expected to persist.

“The rainfall from the tropical storm was concentrated along with the coastal counties, limiting recharge in the headwaters of Maine’s primary watersheds. The northern and mountain regions did observe near to below normal rainfall during this period, therefore rainfall deficits remain unchanged in those areas,” added Stasulis.

Tom Gordon, a conservation specialist from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said that the recent rains will lessen the need for farmers to intensively irrigate their crops.

For Kate Del Vecchio, owner of Tender Soles Farm in Richmond who grows mixed vegetables, the recent rain has brought some respite to the farm.

“We’ve had a good bit of rain, but it’s hard to tell whether after this week if it’s going to rain or should we wait for a few more months,” said Vecchio. “Currently, our only source of irrigation is our house well, because of which we aren’t able to grow anything in a field further away from our house. That field is completely dependent on rainfall.”

Meanwhile, the Maine CDC Drinking Water Program is receiving requests for assistance from public water systems statewide on drought preparedness and response.

Many public water systems “are preparing for continued drought conditions by tracking source water levels, updating their emergency response plans, and communicating with response partners,” said Susan Breau, hydrogeologist at the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s Drinking Water Program. “Most of the reported water quantity issues are from southern and coastal areas.”


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