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Drought conditions are damaging Maine farms and sensitive waterways

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection warns farmers to conserve water while much of the state is consumed by moderate and severe drought.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The Grant Family Farm private reservoir in Saco normally supplies water to 85 percent of its crop, according to Ben Grant, a farmer on the property.

But this summer, Grant says the reservoir shrunk by half amid drought conditions impacting southern and western areas of Maine.

"This is the second time that I can remember seeing that piece of ledge above water," Grant said. 

Grant told NEWS CENTER Maine the lower water levels, on top of high fuel prices for irrigation, forced him to lose out on harvest.

"The dryness coupled with the fuel cost just to keep water [and] things and keep it alive... our inputs went up more than I have ever seen," Grant said.

Most of his corn crop has managed to get enough water, but Grant says he isn't watering a certain patch because conditions have been too dry to put forth the effort.

RELATED: Rain did fall, but much more is needed for Maine farmers

According to Drought.gov, 65 percent of Maine is in drought conditions with 8 percent experiencing severe drought.

More than half of Cumberland County is experiencing severe drought.

"Be patient with your local farmer. They have been working their butt off to get you that ear of corn," Grant said.

But it's not only farmers facing the heat.

Pete Carney with the Long Creek Watershed Restoration Project said Long Creek is seeing lower water levers and showing a higher concentration of toxins that normally wash away with consistent rain.

"We used to call this abnormal, but now we're just going to call this the new normal," Carney said.

RELATED: Maine sees third consecutive year of drought

Carney says road salt used to help vehicles drive safely on surrounding highways during winter ends up flowing into Long Creek. The creek is situated next to the Maine Mall and the 295 and 95 highways.

"We're actually seeing the highest level of chloride during this time of drought in the month of August, as opposed to the winter, when we would normally see it [road salt]," Carney said.

Long Creek used to be home to brook trout, Carney says, but warmer waters that run off hot asphalt no longer sustain the species.

He says more infrastructure to hold storm water would help preserve Long Creek, but ongoing drought conditions don't make it any better.

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