In April 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order which declared an end to the state of emergency in California related to the drought. This lifted many of the legal restrictions placed on water use of California residents and businesses. Unfortunately, California’s water woes are far from over. Marijuana farmers and grow operations are finding it particularly difficult to meet their high water consumption requirements while meeting obligations under state water laws.
The Conflict Between Business Needs and Conservation of State Resources
California’s Mojave Desert is the site of many new cannabis grow operations. News Deeply reports that American Green (the country’s largest publicly traded marijuana company) purchased the entire town of Nipton, California. Nipton is home to twenty residents on eighty acres of land. American Green plans to turn it into the first cannabis resort in the United States. The resort will boast Wild West themed amenities, employee housing, and bottled water infused with cannabis. Unfortunately for American Green, the huge water demand of these activities could conflict with the provisions of California’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. For the first time in California’s history, groundwater users must ensure that aquifers to not suffer from chronic depletion. Business owners now have a legal obligation to ensure that their depletion rate of groundwater aquifers does not chronically outpace the recharge rate by precipitation. This places responsibility on private business owners to manage their use of valuable natural resources. In the area surrounding Nipton – where a golf club and the world’s largest solar thermal power plant have already placed significant demands on area groundwater – this responsibility could become onerous. Continue reading