Tag Archive for 'watersheds'

Environment takes big hit from water-intensive marijuana cultivation

Photo retrieved from: www.news.berkeley.edu

“Led by researchers from the Nature Conservancy, the study included significant UC Berkeley contributions from freshwater fish ecologist Stephanie Carlson, an associate professor of environmental sciences, policy and management; stream ecologist Mary Power, a professor of integrative biology; ecohydrologist Sally Thompson, an assistant professor of environmental engineering; and applied mathematician David Dralle, a Ph.D. student in environmental engineering.

“The environmental harm caused by marijuana cultivation has largely been ignored, but this is a mistake,” said Carlson. “Marijuana is a thirsty crop that often relies on surface water diversions during California’s summer dry season. While many of our native aquatic organisms are adapted to California’s Mediterranean seasonality, the combination of our current drought and summer water diversions for marijuana could be a one-two punch that drives declines in several sensitive populations.”

Marijuana “green rush”

Much of the work by the UC Berkeley researchers has been conducted in Northern California’s Eel River watershed, which is on the brink of recovery from the damaging effects of half a century of logging and soil erosion.

“The sad fact is that the Eel and coastal rivers like it are on a knife edge,” said Power, who studies food webs in rivers and their tributaries. “All of these wonderful native fishes are on the brink of coming back, and it is very frustrating that their recovery – which has taken 50 years and is actually a fairly encouraging recovery for the fish and for the older Eel habitat – is being derailed by the marijuana ‘green rush’.”

According to government figures, California produces an estimated 60 percent of the marijuana consumed in the United States. In this state, marijuana is primarily grown outdoors in remote forested watersheds. In the state’s north coast region, about 22 liters of water or more per plant per day is used during the growing season, which lasts from June through October.”

Read more: UC Berkeley News Center