New Study Throws Environmental Spotlight on Marijuana Cultivation in Emerald Triangle

A study published yesterday looks at the effect of marijuana grows on water flow and on the wildlife that depends on it. Researchers examined four watersheds–three in Humboldt County and one in Mendocino County. The results do not look good for the fish. Water sucked out to produce glistening, sugary buds could, at times, exceed streamflow in three of the four watersheds which fits with witnesses who have recounted local waterways disappearing in places when they had never been known to do so before.

Total map

Map from the study. [Click to enlarge.]

The authors concluded from their research, “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.”

The watersheds looked at in the research paper, Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California by Scott Bauer et al, contain differing amounts of grows. The grows on the northernmost watershed cluster in one small section

Redwood Creek

Upper Redwood Creek

while the grows in the two central watersheds freckle the area densely.

Salmon Creek and Redwood Creek [There are two Redwood Creeks in the study. One in northern and one in southern Humboldt]

Salmon Creek and Redwood Creek [There are two Redwood Creeks in the study. One in northern and one in southern Humboldt]

Outlet Creek in Mendocino also has multiple grows spread across the study area.

Outlet Creek

Outlet Creek

The study authors estimated that each watershed contained between 23,000 to 32,000 plants each sucking an average of approximately 6 gallons of water per day during the growing season which they compared to grapes–about 3 1/3 gallons of water a day. (Though the the amount of product to feel pleasantly buzzed per gallon of water used would be another calculation altogether. Marijuana plants presumably produce large amounts of bud while grapes produce few bottles of wine per plant.)

According to the study, the four watersheds “are already designated as impaired for elevated water temperature and sediment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” Lower flows will exacerbate these issues and, according to the study’s authors, lead to fish dying in unacceptably high numbers. “Complete dewatering of stream reaches would result in stranding and outright mortality of salmonids, which has been observed by the authors at a number of [marijuana cultivation sites] just downstream of their water diversions.” Amphibians also could be at risk.

The authors warn that marijuana grows are more harmful to waterflow than logging. They state,

In contrast, timber harvesting, which until recently was the primary land use in forested ecoregions in the western United States, does not typically divert headwater streams in the same manner as [marijuana cultivation sites.] Timber harvesting operations, at least in California, have state regulatory oversight that requires bypass flows to maintain habitat values for surface water diversions.

Northcoast Environmental Center’s Facebook page posted the link to this study saying, “This is probably the most conclusive study on the watershed-scale impacts of unchecked marijuana production in our region….While there are responsible growers out there, they are being overshadowed by many more who are sucking streams dry. Time to nip it in the bud!”

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huh
huh
7 years ago

Legalize it.

Seamus
Seamus
7 years ago
Reply to  huh

I’m just curious, how would that help? Since quasi-legalization seems to have introduced this problem. It seems to me the price drop with full legalization would just promote more people to grow more pot, thereby using more water.

solarae
solarae
7 years ago
Reply to  Seamus

It would be grown on flat ground. Not extremely sensitive mountain stream watersheds.

ND
ND
7 years ago
Reply to  Seamus

Quasi legalization caused this through the lack of adequate regulations. If it is to be legal in any form, it needs sufficient regulations. Just as there are only so many liquor licenses issued to any given community, so too can there be restrictions on how many marijuana plantations an area will be allowed to support.

Matthew Meyer
Matthew Meyer
7 years ago
Reply to  ND

Cannabis farmers in these remote watersheds will be at an extreme disadvantage under wide-open legalization.

The market itself should rapidly reduce the number of scenes in these areas, unless they are able to brand themselves favorably.

The production caps and tight regulations you favor could actually produce *more* fragile-watershed grows if legitimate production is held too low, or if taxes are too high.

On the other hand, even under state legalization these remote gardens may still find enough margin to keep operating if prices stay high enough in non-legal states.

That’s California’s unique conundrum, and it makes it clear that federal legalization is the long-term solution.

nines
7 years ago

Each plant sucking six gallons per day? That’s preposterous.

june
june
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

The numbers of gallons used in these illegal grows may or may not be exactly right. Not really the point. The operative word here is ILLEGAL, which lets be honest, most out in the woods are. No one can really argue with that, if they are being realistic. And so in any event we are in the worst drought seen in weather history out here in Calif. Any and all steps must be taken to try to correct unnecessary use of water, and surely to try to alleviate any further deterioration of the fish population. Not to mention other wild life that need to drink out of the streams. I’m not a eco-nazi, just a very concerned person worried about the state and the wildlife that are going to suffer as this drought continues, for who knows how long.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago
Reply to  june

Well June, whether or not a grow scene is illegal is irrelevant to the problem of endangered fish being harmed. The problems are: are they diverting water at a time of the year when it affects stream flow and are their land use practices causing sediment discharge into the streams/

Tulip Torpedo
Tulip Torpedo
7 years ago
Reply to  Uti

Correct. I wonder if there is a water test that could be taken in different portions of streams that lay people could do that could narrow down where the problems are coming from? I think a lot of hay and various preventive methods need to be deployed like yesterday. I have heard of subdivisions that were put in that the owners had to monitor the streams for a couple years. As said these problems are so huge the government is not capable fixing it. We all need to figure out a way to fix it.

nines
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Well, my ex grew dope and it for sure wasn’t getting anything approximating six gallons a day, and I know the number one problem for growers historically was getting water to their patches. I knew a guy who hauled it on his back to his plants every few days, and another who used a waterbed as his water tank. None of those guys used that kind of water. None of them industrial sized grows either, and sure the plants can get pretty big, but not six gallons a day big.

I think maybe info from the feds on this particular matter is at least as likely to be purposely misleading as it is to be just plain sloppy science, but, well, I’ve gotten to the point where if the government is saying it, I assume it’s false until I can verify it.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Kym, have you seen the Cervantes book he references? I seem to remember reading somewhere the gallons per day in the book was unbelievably high.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

My gripe over the water use figure has to do with the Bauer Study being called “science” and will now be called the most authoritative study on marijuana cultivation water use. Science is not about guesstimates; it’s about discovering facts and the fact is no one really knows what the median water use is for the median sized plant in Emerald Triangle grows because no one has tried to do a real study following standard scientific protocols. You don’t get scientific answers by cherry picking a figure out of a white paper presented to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors with absolutely no verification of the data in that paper and then ignoring the context of that figure, which is what Scott Bauer deliberately did after he was told he was wrong by more than one person. That’s a classic sign of Bad Science. That turns a scientific study into political propaganda for whatever agenda the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or other bureaucracy chooses. The Humboldt Growers Association (now Emerald Growers Association) based the white paper on the Mendocino 99 plant Zip Tie program the feds shut down. The grower’s objective of that program was to maximize bud… Read more »

Ospreyeye
Ospreyeye
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

It all depends on the size if the plants. Small containers take less water. The numbers are not correct, but they make a point. Lots of water being sucked dry. The point is every single grower uses different quantities of water per day depending on the size of the plants, air temperature and their water supply. Most of the local growers use less than 6 gallons of water per day. That is my educated guess.

Henry
Henry
7 years ago
Reply to  nines

6 gal. per plant per day is probably not far off. When full-term outdoor plants are getting mature they can take much more especially on 90 degree days. The 6 gal. number is a fair average over the life of the plant. Full-term outdoor plants can get huge. Dep requires less per plant cuz they are typically smaller… but usually more numerous. Regardless of Bauers estimate, nobody can deny the water sources are being sucked dry by grows. That’s what happens when money grows on trees.

Gazoo
Gazoo
7 years ago

They should put together a team to walk the watersheds and take down the grows that are in violation, they seem to be able to put other teams in place for eradications, let’s take it a little deeper and fix the diversions and take action against the violators. Humboldt Strong!

Ernie Branscomb
Ernie Branscomb
7 years ago

Why were only these four areas studied. It would seem to be more instructive if they included the Mattole River in their study. The Mattole has massive water tank storage, that could not only offset water loss, but improve water flow in the fall.

“The authors warn that marijuana grows are more harmful to waterflow than logging. They state,”
No sugar Sherlock!…. Why do people forget (Maybe didn’t know) the devastating affects of the Oct ’62 windstorm, or the Dec ’64 Flood?

wait a minute....
wait a minute....
7 years ago

They can say its worse than logging today because we have very little industrial logging right now. How about cows vs grows? I love our local dairys but its wrong to not include them in a study of water use. I agree with above comment- why just these watersheds? Why not out 299 where there are incredibly huge scenes? Not including the Mattole makes me think these scientists used watersheds that would prove their hypothesis. The water storage program us awesome- why wouldn’t they include it? I took statistics too, its so easy to throw results off. Where is the study of the long term impacts of the often illegal logging? The Maxxam owned PL would pay fines for breaking the law rather than work within the regulations. Did the pot growers fill the eel with sediment so deep the original riverbottom cannot even be reached through it? Nope. The silt causes the water to run underground rather than over it, and the fish have suffered terribly because of it. I know there are people being idiots with water use. The folks I know in the hills spend their earnings on water tanks, developing better springs & utilizing methods to… Read more »

hooktender
hooktender
7 years ago

“Did the pot growers fill the eel with sediment so deep the original riverbottom cannot even be reached through it? ” The answer is yes they have. Just look at what has happened to the S.Fork of the Eel is the last 5 years. It is taking 7-10 days longer for the river to clear after a rain. I float and fish the S.Fork for 70-90 days during the Winter and have have done so since the 70’s. For most of those years,(especially since the advent of the Internet), I have kept records of the river levels and when the rivers clears so I can go fishing. I used to be able start fishing from Benbow down when the river level reached 2000CFS(Sylvandale station), now I am lucky if the river is clear enough at 1500CFS, usually much lower. The increased sediment has covered many rocks that were visible 5 years ago. River bends are filled with small sticks at silt, so deep that you will sink to your thighs in the muck. Many of the mouths of the tributaries that empty into the river are filled with rocks and debris from the excavations in the hills. 5 years ago,… Read more »

jim
jim
7 years ago
Reply to  hooktender

There are millions of miles of skid trails around these parts from the height of the logging era, back in the day most of the roads did not get culverts they would fill in the creeks with dirt and let it wash out, how do you know where that sediment is coming from?

hooktender
hooktender
7 years ago
Reply to  jim

First off, there are not millions of miles of skid roads, although there are a lot. Most of the old skid roads have, for the most part healed themselves, most of the old skid roads are heavily vegetated with trees. It is easy to connect the dots. Up until about 5 years ago, before the massive Industrial type grows started, the river and the tributaries were clearing faster and the creek and river beds were becoming narrower and the alders and willows were growing back to provide shade. Now that is all changing and the rivers and creeks are starting to look and act as they did 30-40 years ago. About 10-15 years ago, there was a major creek restoration project in Salmon Creek. These people worked on about a mile of the creek that flows though my property. The results were amazing. The creek bed went from being nearly 300′ wide with most of the water flowing underground in the Summer to a creek bed that was 50′ wide and the creek channel was gradually scoured down to gravel. Now all that work and tax payer money ha been wasted and the creek is back to being wide,with little… Read more »

silverlining
silverlining
7 years ago
Reply to  hooktender

I have my own theory on the sedimentation based on the weir/ spring I have tended for almost thirty years now. Ever since the drought started it became silted over. But that was also the year we started having these infrequent atmospheric river events followed by no rain. In previous decades the rain fell over greater periods of time that allowed the silt to move down the conveyer belt so to speak. The super rain events cause silting but without follow up storms the dirt gets stuck.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago
Reply to  hooktender

In my watershed the increased road traffic in the past 5 years is a major factor in the amount of sediment being produced. Road maintenance is not keeping up with it, the ditches keep filling with road sediment and that causes more erosion of the road surface.

Another thing that has changed is the rainfall patterns. We aren’t getting the kinds of big storms in the past 5 years that flush the fine sediments.

But you’re right Hooktender in your observations of the sediment in the river. I just think the causes are more complex than just pot growers.

june
june
7 years ago

It’s good that this study was done, now as another said, it is time to take it a step further and get these people OUT of the water shed areas, where they are already trespassing anyway!!! It’s time these people stopped making excuses and denying that they are doing any harm. And don’t change the subject to something else. Let’s stick to this subject/problem. It really really needs to be addressed now more than ever, with the west in such terrible shape with the ongoing drought.

silverlining
silverlining
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

I have a neighbor/land partner who agreed to an in-house agreement as to a land split. They have trespass grows on my land ( but since it was a division not recognized by the county it cannot technically be considered trespass ) they were not counted at all in the map. So perhaps some of what I consider vast overstatements of plant numbers would average out to his original estimate if all the old mini patches were still being used.. At any rate I feel many people here are ahead of the curve as to how to manage water in cutting edge ways. But that is inherent optimism on my part. I cannot police anyone but myself.

bill
bill
7 years ago

Before everyone jumps on this propaganda bandwagon we should see a study on the effects of grapes on the fish, or how much water is used to water every lawn, its easy to point fingers at people that are not willing to stand up for themselves

Lazy Skunk Ranch
Lazy Skunk Ranch
7 years ago

What’s scary is when the corps move coming production to the central valley they are going to need to use reverse osmosis water! That’s anywhere from 1-4 to 1-10 in fresh vs wastewater! The salt wastewater will need to be pumped back into the ground because there isn’t much one can do with it.

Blaming the fish and wildlife decline on growers is pretty silly, as all along the west coast, up into Alaska marine life is dying at a high rate. Some blame Fukushima, who knows what is causing it, but something is going on and if it’s coming from a single source odds are it isn’t growers, it’s something bigger.

HotCoffeeandMe
HotCoffeeandMe
7 years ago

http://www.willitsnews.com/localnews/ci_27059713/fall-chinook-salmon-runs-strong?source=rss Fall chinook salmon runs strong By Pat Higgins Eel River recovery Project Posted: 12/03/2014 11:45:15 AM PST The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) 2014 Eel River fall chinook salmon monitoring dives of the lower river are complete, and this year’s run started strong. Thousands of chinook salmon entered the Eel River in late September and October, migrated upstream on rains around Halloween, and are now spawning throughout the Eel River watershed. There was another wave of chinook salmon coming out of the ocean with rains at Thanksgiving, and ERRP will shift its efforts to an inland network of volunteers who watch salmon. As in previous years, ERRP focused the most dive effort in pools in Fortuna at and below the River Lodge. After rains in late September lured fish from the ocean, ERRP volunteers estimated that 2,467 chinook salmon were present in three lower Eel River pools on Oct. 11. Interestingly, smaller male or jack chinook salmon comprised about 25 percent of the fish counted. These fish spend less than a year in the ocean and are an indicator that survival from the spawn of 2013-2014 was very good, despite extremely low flows during the spawning season. Advertisement As… Read more »

gustywind
gustywind
7 years ago

This has been a topic of conversation since the 70’s…so Fish and Game, EPA, and god only knows who else is JUST now getting around to actually putting it in a study??? Discussion in Humboldt, once upon a time, a long time ago…Hippie: The area is over hunted. The deer population is down. Redneck reply: They been eating your maryjane plants…don’t want to screw….. Hippie: Noticed the salmon count is down, must be the combination of that dam at Benbow and over fishing. Need a law for catch and release only. Truth behind the low return on Salmon for spawning….All live streams had stumps and logs removed because EPA said it was polluting the streams when in actual FACT (a word not in EPA’s vocabulary) it was supplying shade, depth of water, which supplied cooler waters, and great spawning beds. When you hear a “self-proclaimed environmentalist” say this will be good for you, and/or the environment…know the next words will be lies or to be nice, no facts supporting these ideas. 30+ years and they have just about destroyed the parks eco system, the water streams, and the economy.

Dave
Dave
7 years ago

Besides the inflated gallons per day number I’d like to point out the fact that if you log onto Google earth and view these water sheds most of these “Dots” do not exist.
The number of grows visible with your own eyes is one tenth of what they have indicated on their maps.
This is big time propaganda, plain and simple.
Once this conversation becomes reasonable and factual I believe more people will show a interest.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

The Scott Bauer CDFW study was done using the older 8/23/12 Google Earth imagery database. If you are looking today the imagery was updated 5/28/14 so things could be different and probably bigger from my spot comparisons.

hooktender
hooktender
7 years ago
Reply to  Dave

If you had read the study, you would have seen that the authors observed that water usage varied from a little less than 1 gallon/day to a high of 14 gallons/day.
The 6 gallon/day usage seems about right from my observation. The per plant average varies a lot depending upon whether we a talking about small plants in a light dep vrs. large outdoor growing plants.
I could not disagree more about your observation that many of the “dots don’t exist, it is actually much worse than the article states, as their survey was done in 2013 and there are many 100’s more gardens and greenhouses now than in 2013.
Where I live for example, within a mile of my house there are at least 12, 30’x100′ greenhouses built last year and probably more I don’t know about, plus the new ones being built this year.

Wrath
Wrath
7 years ago

It’s time for disbelievers to take a whole day off from being too stoned to notice how bad it’s become. Yeah, a who–le day… I’m glad to see this study come out. Finally, some empirical data to support what I’ve been saying for years: Pot farms are industrial pollution at its worst! It does not take a genius to figure out that draining water from sensitive environmental areas, and/or causing rampant erosion is going to have a serious detrimental effect on the ecosystem. As a fisherman, this pisses me off! I think CA has too many vineyards too, but at least they have to follow regs that control how much water they use – and the damn runoff! Grow whatever you want, but do it responsibly.

Matthew Meyer
Matthew Meyer
7 years ago

I agree that it’s less than useful to compare water use of a cannabis plant with that of a grape vine.

One large plant can produce several thousand grams of usable cannabis; that’s thousands of individual doses. Unless a single vine can produce thousands of glasses of wine, the comparison is misleading.

Better would be gallons of water / day / unit of consumption (say, .5 grams versus 1 glass of wine).

Another illuminating comparison would be water / day / wholesale value / unit.

This is important work, but it is much too easily taken up into anti-pot discourse in ways that seem to make cannabis itself a villain, while grapes, timber, and other products are OK because “at least they follow some regulations.” The problem is that the economic and social positives of cannabis are often not allowed into the conversation.

I don’t blame environmental scientists for doing the work, but it’s important to contextualize it in multiple ways, and that often doesn’t seem to happen.

Real
Real
7 years ago

The Eel is one of the most sediment discharge rivers in the world .Look it up .This is a fact

hooktender
hooktender
7 years ago
Reply to  Real

So, what is your point? Are you saying that since the Eel historically has a high sediment load, we should be OK with increasing the sediment?

FR
FR
7 years ago

Legal regulations? how bout hack and spray that is legal, just because there are regulations does not mean they are good ones. look at this article http://www.willitsnews.com/general-news/20150313/forum-in-comptche-addresses-hack-and-squirt the picture in that article is worse than any pot grow you can find

nines
7 years ago

This is really gnawing at me. That six gallons a day per plant nonsense has huge implications for industrial hemp. Maybe the single most environmentally happy thing we could do is have hemp growing everywhere and make everything from it. If the PTB pit that figure against our terror of water shortages, DESPITE that it would increase the amount of water available, we’re that much further from sense prevailing on earth.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago

I’ve commented elsewhere for over a year that Bauer’s choice of 6 gallons per day per plant for 120 days is just plain wrong for an average outdoor plant in 3 of the 4 study watersheds. I even told him directly, but he had to make a tough choice and he chose the only documented water use figures he could find and let’s face it, he probably couldn’t have gotten permission, nor funding, to collaborate with legal medical growers to actually measure what a plant needs and at what stage of growth. Therefore his data is thrown off by the way he calculates water usage. Personally I’m an advocate of expressing water usage in gallons of water used to produce a pound of buds. That’s how most agricultural water usage is expressed and pick any legal crop and the ag scientists know how much water each unit of measure requires, e.g. it takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce a single almond kernel. It would take a more expensive and thorough study to scientifically measure the water usage of pot plants and account for all the variables of soil, growing climate and type of cultivation (greenhouse, dep, full sun outdoor).… Read more »

Tulip Torpedo
Tulip Torpedo
7 years ago

This may be away to a way to fix the illegal grows and land clearing , Sending out fines and pulling illegal water pipes . One problem I see is how far back in time will they go? The county just admitted to a number holes they drilled without permit. It was how it was done in the old days. Buy land put in a pond ,drill a well you were homesteading. I would imagine quite a few ponds and lakes were not permitted. It just got so large now there is a problem. There will be a lot of angry people if they have to fill in a 30 year old pond planted with fish with accompanied flora and fauna. It is a good question why the timber industry got a free pass from the waterboard.

Uti
Uti
7 years ago
Reply to  Tulip Torpedo

The problem is so much bigger that the Water Board and DFW is capable of handling. Look at what they’ve done so far: one inspection sweep through a few properties in Sprowel Creek and since then nothing that has made the news. It took them over a year just to plan that approach. They brought in temporary people from out of the area who didn’t even know the territory they were inspecting nor had any knowledge of how a growing homestead in the hills works. There’s over 4,000 grow scenes in Humboldt county alone—they can’t handle the scope of the problem by going door to door. The system isn’t built to handle it.

The bureaucracy is simply underfunded, undermanned and obviously without leadership. Their process is hamstrung by their own culture and process. What’s worse is that our problem is probably not even on the governor’s radar.

This problem must be fixed from within the growing culture through education and peer group pressure.

Tulip Torpedo
Tulip Torpedo
7 years ago
Reply to  Uti

Uti you of course are right. My bad to blame just one agency when there are a multitude of alphabet soup agencies that are responsible. We got to move the ball forward today. Looking to blame is like looking in a mirror. We are all in it together. The planet deserves better . I think one of the most interesting thing I have learned since following Kym is that a forest should be viewed as a canopy instead of a corn plant. It takes a forest to grow a Redwood Tree.

Tulip Torpedo
Tulip Torpedo
7 years ago

Yup saying nothing has not been working. I think the scenario that say dope growers are lesser people needs a changed attitude. Farming is a noble task .

Ospreyeye
Ospreyeye
7 years ago

The water per plant per day is variable. It depends on many factors. What part of the cycle are the plants in? Starts, Vegetated, or Flowering? What is the air temperature? Plants use more water when it is hot and less when it is not. Plants use very little water when they are small starts. During the vegetative stage plants increase water uptake as they fill in their containers. Smaller containers take less water than large containers. Plants in the ground water differently than plants in containers. Container plants dry out quicker than plants in the ground. During the hot summer heavy vegetative stage plants drink a lot of water. The low water flows occur at the same time plants are the thirstiest. The increase in water use continues into the flower stage until the buds begin to ripen. At this stage the water intake decreases, but the air temperature has decreased as well. The big problem now is everyone Black Boxes/light deprivation. People are in flower stage literally year round now. What needs to be taken into account is black boxes generally require more plants. With growers pulling off 2 to 3 black box harvests on average a season… Read more »

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silverlining
silverlining
7 years ago

I actually helped do an informal study using an inline water meter to check total usage on a select sample. The sample was well protected from wind and had about a four to five o’clock sundown ( east face ). They were in 45 gallon pots. It was monitored to make sure the grass under the pots was not getting to green. The season per day usage was roughly 4.1 gallons. The per pound produced number was roughly five hundred gallons .

eurekajim
eurekajim
7 years ago
Reply to  silverlining

You’re watering 4.1 gal every day?
I’m surprised they didn’t get root rot, especially when they were babies.
Until they get around 3-4′ tall I can’t see them needing more than 2gal every other day, less when they’re babies which probably don’t need more than 1/2 gal every 2-3 days. (at most) From what I’ve heard and by my experience plants shouldn’t be watered everyday and they should pretty much dry out between waterings.

Silverlining
Silverlining
7 years ago
Reply to  eurekajim

Next study I might try some modifications. If I do one. Dialing it back would be a goal. It was sloppy in some ways to start at a point and do follow ups. Drippers and timers can overwater sometimes if not attended to properly. I would like to try a more spaced out planting with better light and a more aggressive dialing up and down of hours to see if it can be lower. No bullshit, just facts. Not everyone is micro managing the timers. Perhaps a hand watering vs. drippers on timers would get better ratios. And as I said, there was very little green grass around the pots telling me it at least was not running out into the surrounding dirt. Feel free to post your own meter based study over an entire full season. I wonder if the dep ratios would be a lot lower.

eurekajim
eurekajim
7 years ago
Reply to  Silverlining

Drippers on timers are ok, that’s the best way to control your water but the drippers you have might be too big, I’d go with 1 gal/hr to start then adjust the length of the time you have them running. The smaller the dripper the better the water is able to soak in instead of running off for one thing, it’s better to water them slowly and deep. If it gets too hot cover them with shade cloth, they like the hot sun for the most part tho as long as you don’t overdo it.
Also 45 gal pots sound pretty big to me unless they’re some pretty monster sized plants, most of the time 15 gal pots are plenty big enough, you don’t want the pot much bigger than the root ball or you’re just wasting water. In my opinion when it comes to gardening most people are inclined to overwater, they need enough but too much isn’t good for them.

Silverlining
Silverlining
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

It was deliberately a little sloppy and I was not fully in charge of the pound count. But I was on the full season daily average. A little under 15 k gallons for 30 pots. that probably included some wet and mild weather days that could have been skipped. But it also had a harvest date that was cut short due to the second damaging rain.

ED Denson
ED Denson
7 years ago

The real issue is stream flow, and the best way to determine stream flow is to measure it. These estimates of the number of plants coupled with estimates of the water use per plant can magnify small errors into major misstatements. Try this:

100 plants x 6 gallons per day = 600 gallons per day
90 plants X5.4 gallons per day = 486 gallons per day

The higher figure is 21% higher, and that’s caused by assuming a 10% overstatement of plants and a 10% overstatement of water uses.

This study and these figures are going to be used for regulation. Laws are going to be built on it. And the methodology of the study is not solid enough to use for that purpose. It is more like a warning that there may well be a problem, than a statement of how bad the problem is.

Until stream flow facts are known, the results are speculation, the more dangerous for being clothed in footnotes and scholarly language.

ED Denson
ED Denson
7 years ago

I’ve done a bit more considering of the study and came up with the surprising, to me, conclusion that the water use of pot plants is not in itself a problem. My calculations, which you are welcome to double check, are that 500,000 pot plants in Humboldt County using 6 gallons a day for 90 days each would require about 828 acre feet of water, and that the Main Eel at Alderpoint, alone, could supply all of that water in less than 2 hours in the height of the rainy season. The problem comes not from the amount of water, but from needing it when its dry. Needing it most when the countryside is driest, in fact. The answer is storage, and the best way of storage is probably ponds. Fill them up in the winter when water’s so plentiful it runs down the driveway, and use them up in the hot dry summer. Any thoughts, anyone?

Dozer Dave
Dozer Dave
7 years ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Thank you for the link, my concern is the lack of information on specifics with the permitting process. Many existing ponds are located on rural properties and were constructed many decades ago. These older ponds exist with no registration or appropriative water right. For many landowners the registration process is an appropriate path to legalizing the water diversion. There are three registration classes including domestic use, livestock watering and small irrigation. The registrations for domestic use and livestock watering have a maximum annual diversion of 10 acre-feet while the irrigated use has a maximum diversion of 20 acre-feet. An acre foot of water is one surface acre filled to a depth of one foot and is approximately 325,000 gallons. The only diversions that are exempt from permitting are ponds that store water from springs that don’t leave the property, are filled with groundwater or capture sheet flow and not from a defined channel. If a new construction pond falls under the water registration exemptions but you plan on moving 50 yards or more of soil a simple earthmoving permit would be required. A dam constructed 25′ feet or higher from existing grade will require engineering and sight inspection along with… Read more »

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