Illicit Water Use

California Drought Water School

This May 1, 2014, photo shows irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, Calif. California is in the third year of the state’s worst drought in recent history. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Marijuana is a water-intensive crop to grow, using approximately six gallons of water per plant per day. Grow sites often illegally divert water from rivers and streams, and lay miles of illegal irrigation tubes. At just one illegal grow in northern California, law enforcement officials found a set of seven sites with a total of eight and a half miles of irrigation piping.

The water needs of these sites are high enough to totally deplete some streams and rivers, harming fish and wildlife in the areas, as well as official efforts to revitalize their populations. Made worse by California’s severe drought, there are cases of streams literally being sucked dry by marijuana farms, and the state has several large rivers at historically low water levels. In addition to using a lot of water, marijuana growers also often pollute water. The insecticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals they use not only seep into soil and ground water, but can also enter streams and rivers, harming the fish and wildlife that rely on them.

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