The Current Magazine Winter 2016/17 - Page 11

The legalization of recreational marijuana will gradually bring cannabis production out into the open market, and for the first time the approximately 50,000 growers in the state will be required to apply for water permits with the State Water Board.

Many growers eventually will be required to build water storage, such as ponds or tanks, and collect water for summer irrigation when streams are running full in the winter. Implementing a program that achieves this goal is very challenging, though. It requires multiple agencies such as the State Water Board, regional water boards, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to be involved and coordinate on policies and principles. At CalTrout, Mierau will be assisting in this effort by providing input on the guidelines for how much water in winter can be diverted for storage on the Eel and its tributaries. "If the water diversion guidelines are based on good science, and provide the water users a feasible pathway for compliance with state laws, then we can minimize the effects of this impairment on salmon and steelhead," he said.

Walter Collins, Staff Attorney for CalTrout, adds his thoughts on the topic. "It is well known that growers in the Eel River basin are having a major impact on both water flows and water quality," he points out. "These new regulatory measures are a step in the right direction to address stream flow and pollution issues associated with cultivation of marijuana."

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