Cannabis Cultivation Strain Water Supplies in California

An increase in marijuana growing on the West Coast is straining water supplies in drought-stricken California and imperiling the region’s salmon populations, environmental groups claim.

Prodigious Water Needs

Marijuana plants require up to six gallons of water per day, putting tremendous strain on water resources where marijuana plants are grown in large quantities. The Northern California coast is known as the “emerald triangle” for its high concentration of marijuana growers. The same region, however, includes important breeding territory for salmon. With the Golden State suffering a prolonged drought, environmental groups worry the increase in marijuana growing is pushing salmon populations to the breaking point.

The deforestation that often accompanies marijuana growing also threatens salmon populations, environmentalists note. Marijuana growers favor locations where water is plentiful, typically close to streams and rivers. They often cut down trees and brush to make room for the marijuana plants, which removes important streambed buffers. After the buffers are removed, more soil is eroded into the streams. The eroded soil contains fertilizers and pesticides used to encourage marijuana plant growth, compounding the eroded soil’s negative impact on streams and rivers.

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