A new gold rush is sweeping California. It promises to exceed the classic gold rush of lore – and last longer. Upstanding, honest entrepreneurs and shady characters determined to get rich quick are running in troves to the hills. Their goal: To start more marijuana grows on private land.
Cannabis is a water thirsty plant. Consequently, water needs of marijuana grows have disastrous effects on California streams. They can devastate protected fish populations according to a study by environmental scientist of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The authors show that under drought conditions “water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeded stream flow in three of four study watersheds” in northwestern California.
As ominous as that sounds reality will most likely be even worse. Marijuana use for ‘medical’ purposes is becoming more and more widespread. The range of medical applications for marijuana is expanding beyond belief almost daily. Simple common ailments such as colds, anxiety, depression and diabetes all can get a determined pot user a coveted marijuana card. Moreover, a recent survey of likely voters showed that about 55 percent are supporting legalization of marijuana. Impending legalization of marijuana will increase the number of pot heads and highly profitable pot grows.
Northwestern California is the capital of marijuana grows. Added legal demand for pot will lead to a rapid expansion of growing areas in California. Water diversion and theft will most likely increase dramatically everywhere the plants are grown. Pollution of the environment will not be far behind.
An environmental study by seven authors from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in Sacramento and the National Marine Fisheries Service in Arcadia, published on March 18, 2015, concludes:
“We estimated the water demand of marijuana irrigation and the potential effects water diversions could have on stream flow in the study watersheds. Our results indicate that water demand for marijuana cultivation has the potential to divert substantial portions of streamflow in the study watersheds, with an estimated flow reduction of up to 23% of the annual seven-day low flow in the least impacted of the study watersheds. Estimates from the other study watersheds indicate that water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeds streamflow during the low-flow period. In the most impacted study watersheds, diminished streamflow is likely to have lethal or sub-lethal effects on state-and federally listed salmon and steelhead trout and to cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species.”
(CDFW study. Full source quote at end of article).
Marijuana plots are not new to California. They appeared in the 1960, if not earlier, in backyards and on private land in the state. Their numbers expanded dramatically when the Compassionate Use Act became law in 1996. Ever increasing demand and a never-ending expansion of new ‘medical‘ uses for marijuana now has resulted in a rush to grow more pot and to establish more outlets for medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is used to treat the common cold, runny nose, headaches, stomach aches and the multiple ailments our teenagers suffer from while walking to their school. Or to the nearest park where they while away the day.
Marijuana grows are concentrated in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties. They are sparsely populated and have remote plots on forested lands. Humboldt county is known for its many relatively small parcels of private land. They are ideally suited for marijuana cultures. It is not surprising that from 2008 to 2012 between 53 and 74 percent of all marijuana plants eradicated in the United States were found in the above counties. Increasing demand for marijuana brought us also an increase in pot plots on public land. Some recent raids by law enforcement agencies concentrated just on such trespass grows. The California Hunting Post has reported on several raids in 2014 and this year. CDFW and other agencies are relatively powerless when marijuana grows are located on private land. Proposition 215, Compassionate Use Act, appears to sanction marijuana grows on private land.
CDFW and local authorities can only combat destructive diversion of surface water, streambed alterations, toxic pollution and other environmental perils. At least at this time and until reason prevails and curtails rampant abuse of the environment and reckless pollution for private financial gain.
As matters stand now there are more pothead and fewer steelhead in California’s future.
Authorities are doing their best to stem this tide of wanton destruction by attempting to make marijuana grows as environmentally friendly as possible.
Study scientist used online tools and on site inspection of marijuana grow site to establish a realistic number of marijuana plants in open grow sites and in greenhouses. Stream flow data provided by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) allowed CDFW to determine that water demand for cultivation of marijuana could exceed 100 percent of the stream flow during the dry season of summer in three of the four studied areas. This conclusion proved to be a correct assumption for the summer of 2014.
“All the streams we monitored in watersheds with large-scale marijuana cultivation went dry,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, lead author of the research paper. “The only streams we monitored that didn’t go dry contained no observed marijuana cultivation.”
These dire prediction in the middle of a drought may be unnerving to city dwellers. But there can be no doubt that neither the owners/operators of marijuana grows nor fans of medical marijuana in California will care about that destructive side effect of their addiction. Who cares about salmon, endangered small fish in some obscure creek in the hinterlands of California or amphibians in San Diego county? Feral pigs in the Cleveland National Forest will wipe them out anyway, say local forest officials there.
In the warped reality of users of ‘medical’ marijuana the need to have their favorite libation available breakfast, lunch and dinner and many times in between supersedes the interests of residents of California and legitimate commercial and agricultural interest. The actual water need of a marijuana plant is not exactly documented anywhere. Best estimates range from 22.7 to just over 56 liters per plant per day. In the monitored watersheds each marijuana grow site contained between 23,000 and 32,000 plants. These numbers do not include plants grown in greenhouses. Multiplying the minimum daily water consumption estimate of 22.7 liters per plant by the number of marijuana plants counted gives a daily water consumption of between 523,144 land 724,016 liters per day.
This water is withheld from agriculture, wildlife and human consumption.
“Compassion” has a high price, a very high price indeed.
But how about the food supply for the very potheads who cause the destructive situation with their devotion to the use of medical marijuana? How do they get the potato chips and other munchies when sitting splendidly stoned on their old couch?
Farm and ranch operators are pumping our aquifers dry at alarming rates. Now marijuana growers are driving additional wells into the ground to feed the excessive water needs of their crops. Forget about almonds, rice and other water intensive crops.
Pot is just another water intensive cash crop cultivated in marijuana grows.. Yet in the world of marijuana users medicinal plants are more equal.
To hell with everyone else, I need my daily fixes.
After all, pot has a compassionate use in ameliorating the sufferings of retired hippies and a majority of Californians young and old. Nothing beats fighting a head cold with a stoned head.
Wait! Look at the bright side of this development. Seventeen percent of our teenagers are no longer smoking addicting cigarets. Yeah!
I bet the same 17 percent are smoking dope in the park instead of going to school.
That is compassionate progress.
Part II: Read what local sheriffs and other responsible agencies have to say about marijuana grows.
FCC Notice: Read the official FCC notices in the right and left sidebars. Thank you.
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