Low Flow Rule Compliance
How to get a five year deferral from the recently enacted low flow regulations.
This factsheet was developed to help you determine what steps you need to take to maintain your existing water withdrawals for irrigation for the next five years, develop an allowable water drawdown limit, and determine whether a new pond or well would be a better option for you in the future.
By the end of this summer, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will have new rules in place which will require farmers not to exceed certain withdrawal limits of water from lakes, ponds, rivers and brooks. Farmers who are currently irrigating can follow the instructions below to get a deferral for 5 years.
Who can help you?
The Agricultural Water Management Board was set up to help farmers gain access to water for irrigation. The Board works with the Departments of Agriculture (DOA) and Environmental Protection (DEP) to help farmers with water management planning and new source development. You can call John Harker at 287-7620 or Steve Belyea at 764-2105 at DOA to assist you.
What do I need to do to get a 5 year deferral from the low flow standards?
First, you need to either be a currently irrigating farmer by September 30 of this year reportable under the Water Use Reporting law, OR you need to be an irrigating farmer who does not need to report and can document a history of agricultural water use. If you are unsure as to whether you have a reportable use, call John Harker or Steve Belyea or read the questions and answers on this page.
Second, for those farmers who need to report under the Water Use Reporting Law, you need to request and submit a Water Use Reporting Form from the Agricultural Water Management Board BEFORE DECEMBER 1st, 2007. Complete all sections for each source of water you have been using. In that report please identify all the water sources you currently use or have used, and where the pumping sites are located. Make sure each pumping location has a separate name or identity. You can find the forms online or or call, email or write to the Board at 28 SHS, Augusta, ME 04333, call 287-7620, or email John.Harker@maine.gov.
What if I am not irrigating by September 30 but want to irrigate in the future? Can I get the exemption?
No. You need to have been irrigating from some source prior to September 30th to be covered. If you are planning to irrigate in the future, and know the water source you want to use, you CAN get the source evaluated for the low flow limit. Just contact the Board staff for setting a future date to have your source evaluated for the low flow limit. You will need to follow that limit once you start irrigating.
What if I already report to the Department under the existing Water Reporting Program?
All sources you have previously reported will be grandfathered for 5 years automatically. If you have used other sources not previously reported, add those sources to your next report before December 1st.
What if I can otherwise document a history of agricultural water use at the site prior to September 30, 2007, but have not had a reportable withdrawal in the past five years?
If you can document a history of agricultural water use, then make sure you have written or pictoral documentation available in case you need to validate that with DEP. You do not have to report to the Board at this time unless you fall under the water use reporting requirements (see WEBSITE or contact DOA for more information on who has to report their water use).
What if I already have an agreement establishing a withdrawal limit or a permit that establishes a low flow limit.
If you already have an agreement or a permit with a regulating agency that establishes a flow limit, you must adhere to that for the next 5 years until you come into compliance with the new low flow limits. You do not need to report to the Board at this time unless you must report under the water use reporting law (see WEBSITE or contact DOA for more information on who has to report their water use.)
After I do any of the above, what is next?
- Establish a water management plan for your farm.
Whether you are an existing irrigator or plan to start irrigating in the future, the Board is encouraging all farmers to develop a water management plan for the farm. The plan will be needed if you plan to ask for a different low flow limit, for getting state and federal cost share for new source development, and, most importantly, for your own peace of mind. The Board has a plan outline for you to follow. Go to http://www.me.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/IrrigationInfo.html to get a sample plan.
- Determine a low flow limit using the new regulations.
The Board will be providing additional information over the next 6 months on how you can determine the low flow limit for your water source. Not all water sources will be required to have a low flow limit, and the limit is different for different types of sources. The Maine DEP will have staff that can assist you. If you want assistance immediately, call the Board Staff.
- Apply for grants to develop a new water source.
The Legislature passed a new bond request for 1.5 million dollars. If voters approve the bond in November, more cost share funds will be available for new source development. If you are interested in developing a new source, please contact Board staff to get on a mailing list notice for when the grant cycle will start.
For additional information and contacts:
John Harker or Steve Belyea, Staff
Agricultural Water Management Board
Maine Department of Agriculture
28 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0028
207-287-3491, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com