Tags: Drought | Marijuana | California | water

Illegal Marijuana Growers Siphoning Off California Water

By    |   Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 01:47 PM

California officials aren't as worried about illegal marijuana operations that are popping up in the state's countryside as they are about the gallons of water the thirsty plants need to suck up to survive.

Hundreds of undercover operations are popping up across Northern California, reports The New York Times, and growers are diverting water from underground springs and have even been damming up creeks to steal the water for their cash crops.

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It's legal to grow marijuana — under a set of strict state laws — in California, but the excess water consumption is a problem for a state that has been under a drought emergency since January.

According to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released in July, 58.41 percent of the state is in the "exceptional drought" category, while the entire state falls in the "severe" drought classification.

In Lake County, where hundreds of growers have opened operations, officials have enacted an ordinance that requires growers to account for the water they're using, reports The Times. In Mendocino County, Sheriff Thomas Allman says he's been catching growers siphoning water from springs after their wells ran dry too early in the season.

"I have told my marijuana team, 'I want you to fly the rivers, fly the tributaries; let's prioritize the water diversion,'" Allman told The Times.

The illegal diversions are threatening springs that are on private property. In July, federal and state agents conducted a raid on the Yurok Indian Reservation, upon request by tribal elders, after the reservation's water supply was running short because illegal growers stealing their water.

Some growers are being careful about their water, including a man who goes by the name of Swami Chaitanya, 71, who has been growing marijuana for decades and now operates a legal farm for an Oakland dispensary.

Chaitanya said his plants are watered from tanks feed by a spring on the property, and he also recycles the farm's wastewater. He has also reduced the number of plants he's growing.

But Allman said growers like Chaitanya are not the problem, as "old hippies get it" because "they're going organic; they're doing water reduction." And he said "young hippies" are also being careful.

There are others, though, who don't care about conserving water.

"I'm talking about people that move here in April, grow marijuana as fast as they can until October," Allman said. "The 20-year-old kid who wants to make his million bucks, and he's using these steroid fertilizers. He doesn't care about how much water he uses, or what he puts in the soil."

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California officials aren't as worried about illegal marijuana operations that are popping up in the state's countryside as they are about the gallons of water the thirsty plants need to suck up to survive.
Drought, Marijuana, California, water
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2014-47-07
Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 01:47 PM
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