Cannabis water use

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Cannabas water use is an average of an immense six (6) gallons per plant per day.[1][2] Merely one ounce of pot required 10 or more gallons of water to grow. Cannabis plants consume nearly twice the water needed by conventional commodity crops:

Three Illinois State University researchers ... found that the water demand for growing cannabis typically exceeds that of commodity crops by nearly double.[3]

A study by the liberal Brookings Institute concluded merely with respect to California:

The scale of the problem is staggering: Even at the end of 2020, illegal cannabis grows sucked up between 11.4 million and 36.3 million liters of water daily! The widespread illegal cultivation contributes to water depletion and conflict over water and has other bad environmental consequences.[4]

Almonds are considered to be unusually wasteful of water, requiring 5 liters of water to produce merely one almond. But cannabis is just as wasteful of water,[5] without providing the nourishment that almonds confer.

Merely one cannabis plant consumes about 1000 gallons of water annually, and during the June-October months when water is most scarce. In 2021, federal interdicting efforts seized 5.53 million unlawful cannabis plants, which therefore were consuming 5.5 billion gallons of water annually.[6] A study of water theft included this observation:

Northern California, where highly valuable legalized marijuana production requires large volumes of water, motivating some growers to steal urban and rural water under a low probability of detection.[7]

Estimates are that the water use by legal cannabis crops will double in 5 years, and there are about 3 times as many illegal cannabis plants as legal ones.[1]

Theft of Santa Ynez River water

Cannabis growers in California are stealing massive amounts of water from the Santa Ynez River, according to a complaint filed with the state regulatory authority in September 2022, asserting that:

more than 70% of cannabis cultivators are using surface water, which includes subsurface flows beneath the riverbed, in violation of state laws restricting cannabis water sources. Of the 31 cultivators along the Santa Ynez River between Cachuma Lake and Lompoc, 21 are pumping and irrigating with river water, the complaint alleges, based on the report from Lynker Technologies that says nearly 500 acre-feet of river water is being used for cannabis annually.[8]

Merely one acre-foot of water is enough to supply a year's worth of water of 4 to 10 people in an urban environment.[8] The alleged theft by these cannabis growers thereby totals the annual water needs of up to 5,000 people, amid a terrible drought in the summer of 2022 in California.

Theft of water in Junction City, Oregon

Seizure in August 2022 of an illegal cannabis grow of 8,716 plants, apparently funded from Mexico, also discovered unlawful use of water, all near Junction City, Oregon.[9]

Humboldt County, California

Severe water shortages have been caused by cannabis growing, both legal and illegal, in Humboldt County, California on its northwest coast. Despite a lawsuit in 2019 against the immense use of water by cannabis growers, they have continued to cause problems amid a severe drought. Water use by cannabis farms have caused the wells of neighbors to go dry:

[L]ocal residents are still worried, with some neighbors of permitted cannabis farmers reporting that their own wells have gone dry despite the certifications from a hydrologist.[10]

Inability to Limit by Legislation

The Acequia Association has issued a statement against [New Mexico] SB 100 [in 2022]. “We worked very hard with the legislature in 2021 to enact safeguards for water resources from the negative impacts of the cannabis industry,” association director Paula Garcia said in a statement. “In a few minutes, with no opportunity for public comment, all that hard work was erased.”[11]


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. Another estimate is that a mature cannabis plant consumes 23 liters of water per day, which is 6.08 gallons daily.
  4.,has%20other%20bad%20environmental%20consequences (emphasis added).
  8. 8.0 8.1