With surge in pot gardens, experts warn of ‘staggering’ destruction of habitats, likelihood of North Coast streams running dry.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Streams in Northern California’s prime marijuana-growing watersheds likely will be sucked dry this year if pot cultivation isn’t curtailed, experts say.
“Essentially, marijuana can consume all the water. Every bit of it,” said state Fish and Wildlife Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, who specializes in salmon recovery and is working on a study of the issue. The findings, expected to be released soon, shed new light on a massive, largely unregulated industry in California that has been blamed for polluting streams and forests with pesticides and trash and for bulldozing trees and earth to make clearings for gardens.
A sharp increase in water-intensive pot cultivation, exacerbated by drought conditions, adds to the habitat degradation and threatens to undo decades of costly fish restoration efforts, Bauer said.
“The destruction of habitat is actually quite staggering,” said Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Last year, 24 North Coast salmon-bearing tributaries were reported to have gone dry, Bauer said, though not all were verified by the agency. Even without drought, there isn’t going to be enough water to meet the pot industry’s growing demand, Bauer said.