Environment & Science

North Coast Regional Water Board regulates weed growers' use of water

The North Coast is a popular place to grow weed.
The North Coast is a popular place to grow weed.
Photo by Sean Douglas via Flickr Creative Commons

For the first time, regulations have been set for the amount of water that gets used on weed cultivation in the North Coast, a region known for its booming marijuana industry.

The policy adopted by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is meant to protect the environment from the waste that cannabis cultivation releases, according to a joint statement from the California Environment Protection Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board.

The regulations are meant to address issues that include water storage, erosion control and spoils management.

The North Coast board says that many streams in the area are affected "by excess sediment, nutrients and elevated temperatures."

As of February 15, 2016, cultivators who have weed growing in areas of 2,000 square feet or greater will have to enroll in a three-tier system that is based on site conditions and threat to water quality.

"This is a giant step forward in protecting North Coast water resources,” John Corbett, chair of the North Coast water board, said in the statement.

According to the Santa Rosa-based Press Democrat, the regulations have been designed with those who might have "an ingrained distrust of public authority" in mind. The policies include allowing many farmers to register through nongovernmental third-party organizations. Also:

As a hedge against self-incrimination, the rules also are written to apply to “cannabis cultivation and associated activities or operations with similar environmental effects,” so that those enrolling are not necessarily admitting they grow pot, which still is illegal under federal law. Additionally, participants are not required to demonstrate whether they are growing marijuana for medicinal use, which state law permits, or recreational use, which many expect will be legalized next year.