AUGUSTA, Maine — A legislative panel is weighing a proposal to require water utilities to hold a referendum and public hearings before entering into “extraordinary” agreements to sell water to commercial operators such as bottlers.

The bill aired Tuesday before the Utilities and Energy Committee is the first of several that were inspired by recent disputes between water bottlers and local residents concerned about the sustainability of their water supply.

Supporters said the referendum and hearings would ensure the public a say in such matters.

Water utilities warned of unanticipated consequences, saying the requirement could encumber water districts from selling to each other. Utility managers and trustees, who are often elected, also said most of their decision-making processes are already transparent.