Study: Booming California Marijuana Crop A Factor In Drought

California Marajuana

The latest theory on what all has contributed to the water shortage after the massive drought in California might well exonerate the Delta Smelt at least partially, but convict humans and human activity anyway.  Officials and scientists are now floating the idea that the state’s marijuana industry could be a big culprit of covert water usage.

It seems that in a growing season of 150 days, each marijuana plant takes in six gallons of water.  That means that seed to harvest, each pot weed uses 900 gallons of water that does not trickle down to the watersheds.  (In comparison, a low-flow shower head uses about 2 gallons per minute and that water ends up being recycled after sewage treatment.)

According to estimates based on years old data, within the booming pot industry in California, where only medicinal marijuana is actually legal, there are somewhere around 23,000 to 32,000 cannabis plants PER WATERSHED.  That’s anywhere from 21 million to 29 million gallons of water annually not making it to the rivers and streams PER WATERSHED.

(Ethan Epstein of the Weekly Standard reports that there are annually AT LEAST 17.5 million outdoor plants in California for the grand total of water usage at 16 billion gallons per year.  And that doesn’t count the indoor crop.)

Researchers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife seem to think that the water being soaked up by the crop is contributing to the overall water shortage problem.  They published a study outlining their contentions.

“The environmental impacts associated with marijuana cultivation appear substantial, yet have been difficult to quantify, in part because cultivation is clandestine and often occurs on private property,” says the study, which was published in the scientific journal PLOS One.

The scientists further concluded that “water demands for the existing level of marijuana cultivation in many northern California watersheds are unsustainable and are likely contributing to the decline of sensitive aquatic species in the region” and that “marijuana cultivation may be completely de-watering streams, and for the larger fish-bearing streams downslope, the flow diversions are substantial.”

The authors acknowledge their analysis is limited in part because marijuana remains illegal for recreational use and is therefore unregulated and growers often cultivate pot under the radar.

This of course is still just a theory, and does not completely take into account Mother Nature not cooperating, idiotic water priorities imposed by humans and not asking other states for help.  But it does make sense that a huge undocumented crop that uses a lot of water and is immensely popular regardless of legal status would be cutting into the rationed water supply.  Seriously, why waste water on food when the marijuana crop is thirsty.

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.