California Officials Fight Illegal Water Use by Marijuana Growers

Across California, parched counties and cities are targeting hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal marijuana operations. Previously, such drug busts were due to public safety and environmental reasons, but recently, police have been on a mission to save water. Marijuana cultivation requires a large amount of water, and amidst crippling drought and strict water-use regulations, communities are looking to save water in any way they can.

Illegal operations in Northern California counties such as Lake and Mendocino are a major problem for county officials due to the huge amount of water diverted to cultivate cannabis plants. Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas D. Allman has caught growers illegally taking water from springs after many wells had run dry in the wake of the drought. He recently has been having his team keep a close eye on rivers and other water sources in order to prevent the county’s precious water supply from further theft.

State numbers show that outdoor marijuana cultivation has doubled in the past few years in communities such as Mendocino County and Humboldt County, to what is described as “disastrous effect.”

Many marijuana growers, described as “old hippies” by Sheriff Allman, understand the problem, and have been taking steps to reduce their crops or to recycle their wastewater. But there are certain high-output marijuana growers who attempt to grow as much cannabis as they can, as fast as they can, in order to make as much profit as possible. These types of people, said Sheriff Allman, are the ones that have no regard for how much water they use or what kind of environmental impact they might have.

Read more about California’s water woes here.