Marijuana Grows’ Impact on Local Creeks Documented; New Watershed Mapped
Are marijuana grows really affecting water flows?
Some cannabis farmers argue that their water use is minimal compared to grapes or almonds, etc. Or they argue that the drought is the only reason stream flow is below historic levels. Recently, Scott Bauer, Staff Environmental Scientist, at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife spoke before the 2015 Western Section Wildlife Society Conference. Above is a video of his speech in which he looks at the effect of marijuana grows on local watersheds. He argues that marijuana grows are dewatering local streams and killing fish. He offers compelling information.
Don’t have time for the entire video? Here are highlights.
Mad River folks, Bauer’s crew just took a look at what’s happening in your area. Not good. According to a study they just conducted, you’ve got more plants (and thus more water being diverted from your river) than any other studied so far. In the video, Bauer claims approximately, 50,000 marijuana plants are sucking up water in that area. Remember the maps of Salmon Creek, upper and lower Redwood Creeks, and Outlet Creek? Now there’s one of your watershed.
China Creek folks, Bauer illustrates the issues of dewatering our streams with a fish kill found in your area in 2013. A dam placed at the headwaters was the worst culprit but there were dozens of other diversions. Steelhead, Coho and Chinook live in the creek and all were impacted by the water withdrawn for marijuana gardens.
Fort Seward folks, Bauer said the Eel River in your area in the summer of 2014 had the lowest flows ever recorded in the 60 year history of measuring there.
He also noted that someone is diverting large amounts–up to 50% of low flow. He said, “There is a major diversion taking place every day. We have no idea who’s doing it….At one particular point they almost took half of the flow. That’s a problem.”
All together now: In most cases, the amount taken is relatively small. However, Bauer said, the cumulative effect of multiple diversions can completely dewater the creeks. In the creeks studied by Bauer, those with marijuana grows dropped precipitously to zero flow around August.
Bauer said, “The only stream that didn’t go to zero was Grizzly Creek which has no marijuana cultivation.”
Bauer concludes his speech by arguing that it is going to be difficult to store enough water to support large marijuana grows in the hills of the Emerald Triangle. He states, “On commercial scale it is going to be difficult to achieve… .”