If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve heard about the severe drought California is facing. Marijuana growers are using the severe lack of water to California’s north to their advantage, tapping into the state’s underground water supply to water their crops.

California’s drought has been in full effect since the beginning of the year and it seems that many people are blaming the cannabis industry for the lack of water supply in the state. The problem is that cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and therefore these growers are not able to access the water needed for their plants, which is strictly regulated by the national government. This means that they are stealing water that is not theirs.

Marijuana is a hot commodity right now, and there are some in California who are trying to make a buck off of it. While the state is under a severe drought, California’s cannabis growers are stealing water from their neighbors’ wells. It is a horrible thing to do, and the California Water Resources Control Board is considering actions to deal with the problem.. Read more about still water and let us know what you think.

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A UC Berkeley research finds that authorized cannabis farms pose little danger, but raises concerns about illicit cultivation.

According to Ted Grantham, assistant professor at University of California Berkeley and co-director of the school’s cannabis research program, legal cannabis grow farms account for just around 20 to 25 percent of total marijuana farms in California. This implies that a large number of plants remain uncontrolled, and the illicit market thrives four years after the legalization of cannabis.

Grantham and his Berkeley colleagues were able to estimate the size of the illicit market using aerial imagery. Scientists discovered 15,000 cannabis plantations in Humboldt County alone, despite the fact that California only has 8,000 authorized cannabis fields.

Researchers are trying to better understand how expanded cannabis acreage is affecting water resources. Photo by Hekia BodwitchResearchers are attempting to figure out how the growing cannabis industry is impacting water resources. Hekia Bodwitch took the photo.

Despite a major emphasis on water use in cannabis cultivation from authorities and the public, the crop still constitutes the smallest percentage of agriculture in the northern portion of the state, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (2020). It is much lower than popular feed crops like as hay and oats, as well as grapes, olives, and apples. According to Grantham, most farms are around a quarter of an acre in size, which is tiny enough to operate quietly and out of sight of regulators. Although, according to recent reports, millions of dollars have been seized and hundreds of arrests have been made in more distant regions, illegal cannabis continues to drive demand from rich foreign markets and remains tough to control.

With so much undocumented, unregulated—but small-acreage—cannabis grown throughout the state, the agriculture sector is forced to wonder: How much water are these growers actually using?

Grantham and his colleagues investigated this by monitoring the groundwater use of many authorized cannabis farms in the Emerald Triangle (Mendocino, Trinity, and Humboldt Counties) and eleven additional Northern California counties that allow cannabis cultivation.

Although California enacted The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 to prevent “overdraft of groundwater and protect water quality and supplies for agriculture, residents, fish and other wildlife,” the study found that most cannabis grows are on hillsides and tucked into more remote areas, rather than on valley floors.

“Because most cannabis farms are outside of the SGMA-regulated groundwater basins, well-use poses a significant but mostly uncontrolled danger to streams in the region,” adds Grantham. While the SGMA rules forbid irrigation during dry months and promote water storage from resources gathered during wetter months, the expense and maintenance of storage tanks or irrigation ponds has prompted cannabis producers to seek groundwater from wells.

There is no proof that cannabis is a “hungry” plant, according to Grantham. In fact, weed consumes about the same amount of water as tomatoes, somewhat more than grapes and a few other crops, but it is not the water plague that some experts have claimed.

The Berkeley researchers discovered that “well usage by cannabis farms is widespread statewide reaching 75 percent among farms that have licenses to cultivate in nine of the eleven major cannabis-producing counties,” based on data from authorized grows. Farms with on-farm streams or in regions with higher rainfall were less dependent on wells, whereas farms with bigger acreages of cannabis pumped more groundwater for irrigation.”

Wells are not illegal, and there are no restrictions on utilizing groundwater for agriculture, although water supplies are scarce. According to the research, wells dug near streams and rivers have the potential to shift water away from healthy streams. According to Grantham, “pumping from a well that is frequently linked to nearby streams and rivers may have an impact on upland watersheds and the ecosystem in general.”

Using well water for irrigating cannabis is common statewide, the study found. Photo by Chris DillisThe research discovered that irrigating cannabis using well water is widespread throughout the state. Chris Dillis took the photo.

Despite the fact that it is not included in the research, Grantham believes that so-called “trespass grows,” or crops grown on trespassed property, are detrimental to the ecosystem because to the “nasty chemicals used, insecticides, and rodenticides that end up in the food chain.” The quality of the water has yet to be determined.”

“Research is in its infancy, and regulators have just started to address these water issues,” he adds. The few studies that have been done indicate that authorized cannabis crops pose a low risk.”

However, due of the huge number of still-illegal, unknown plants, the cannabis business remains mostly unregulated. Additional study, as well as potential action, will undoubtedly be part of the future legislative environment.

Barbara Barrielle is a well-known author. (Barbara Barrielle) (Barbara Barrielle) (Barbar

Barbara Barrielle (Barbara Barrielle) (Barbara Barrielle) (Barbar

Barbara BarrielleBarbara Barrielle

Barbara Barrielle was a longtime publicist in sports and wine before going to the other side as a wine, travel and entertainment writer. She also produces films and has a documentary “Crushed: Climate Change and the Wine Country Fires” releasing in 2021. Current publications Barbara writes for are AARP Magazine, Northwest Travel & Life, East Hampton Star, Napa Valley Register, Oregon Wine Press as well as Wine Industry Advisor. She lives in Healdsburg, travels extensively and studies wine and languages.

 

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